Get to know Frontrunners Toronto
Meet the Executive Committee
Director at Large
Director at Large
Give us the basics: location, times and days:
We meet at 519 Church Street (Barbara Hall Park).
We meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6:15pm (leaving at 6:30pm)
On Saturdays, we meet at 9am.
What distances do you usually run?
The standard distances are 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10km. However, please do not be shy and feel free to propose a longer distance if you feel like running longer. Someone will usually also join, We have run “The Wall” on a Tuesday night.
Do I have to pay the membership fee before I join a run?
Not at all! Feel free to stop on by for any runs throughout the week and join us. However, if you do run with us continuously and would like to become a member, just check out the link in our bio.
What are the perks of being a member?
We host multiple, awesome socials a year, offer discount codes for most races throughout the year, and occasionally get complimentary passes to some of the runs. You would be joining a vibrant community of over 250 members.
Do you offer bag drop?
Yes, we do! Please come early to make sure we can do bag drop before heading off for the run.
Do you really run all year round? Rain or Shine?
Frontrunners Toronto runs rain or shine, all year round. In extreme weather conditions, (e.g. ice storm, freezing rain), we announce on social media, and our member’s WhatsApp group if we are cancelling a run. Alternative routes are made during wintertime and extremely wet conditions to avoid going into the pathways of the Don Valley and Milkman’s Lane and to stay at street level.
Do you train for a particular race?
Yes, we do. Throughout the year, we provide different training programs at no cost. For example, this year, we trained for the Pride Run 5k, Around the Bay Race 30km, the Toronto Marathon and the TCS Waterfront Marathon.
How fast do people run? What’s the average pace/speed?
We have members of all different athletic levels and abilities. Some like to run fast, while others run more casually. If you’re new to running and worried you might be left behind, don’t worry. Our motto is “No runner left behind”.
How can I get my hands on the Frontrunners gear I see around the city?
Check our store regularly to see our latest merch selection and place your order! Click here to visit it now.
We are a member of International Frontrunners, an affiliation of LGBTQ+ running and walking clubs that have organized in many of the larger cities around the world. Inspired by Patricia Nell Warren's novel The Front Runner. The first Front Runners club began in San Francisco in 1974, and others quickly began forming in the United States, then in Canada and abroad. Today there are over a hundred Frontrunners clubs around the world.
"Gay Toronto" in the 1980s, when we established Frontrunners Toronto out of the Out & Out Club running group, probably would seem like an alien planet when compared to its 2020s successor so no apologies for the way we were. A reading of history reveals the coming-out movement and consequential decriminalization of same-sex relationships emerged at the University of Toronto and reflected the city at that time when the privilege of being able to risk coming-out was largely confined to white males. There were few non-Caucasians in the bars [or baths] while gay men and women hardly ever mixed. Many of the gender identifications on the continuum that now we accept were unimaginable. Moreover, road running and racing also were dominated by white, middle-and upper class males. We explained-away the lack of success in attracting a broader membership to "you can't push a rope and longshoremen don’t jog". The expansion we sought was akin to fishing in the desert. But we did know we should have been doing better.
Moreover, we were "fast" and admittedly intimidating to many novice runners. Though we were committed to never leaving anyone behind we couldn't help that many new members and especially women would perceive that they were holding us back. As a result, while we never missed a Saturday morning run, even when it was -15° or colder or there was >20cm of fresh snow, we also never grew beyond a core group of about 20 members. It's a delight to witness the club has burst-free of those limits.
Attempting to live a positive life means I have few regrets about the way we were; only a commitment that we can always get better. Similar to the Out & Out Club, Frontrunners was one of the first places gay men felt safe using their real names; when the horror of the plague could not be ignored, we partnered with the AIDS Committee of Toronto to stage Runners for Life which was re-incarnated as the Pride and Remembrance Run; we changed our name from Running Wilde after engaging with other Frontrunners at Gay Games III in Vancouver; and we hosted the International Frontrunners Forum. Did I mention we were fast? We also won the premiere relay-event at International Frontrunners hosted meets in Long Beach CA and here at home. Our training-secret was the enduring weekly long up-hill route along MudCreek, past The Brickworks, to St Clair!
FRTO - The First Ten Years
In August 1986, a small group of swimmers, runners and other athletes travelled from Toronto to San Francisco for the second Gay Games. Founded by American Olympian, Dr. Tom Waddell, the Gay Games were revolutionizing how gay men and women viewed competitive sports and how the sporting world would view gays and lesbians. I had been part of the Out & Out Club's gay running group in Toronto for a couple of years at the time and was in San Francisco as the guest of of a cyclist and fellow runner I had met during a Toronto-New York running exchange visit. I still can feel the thrill experienced upon arriving at Kezar Stadium and seeing thousands of gay men and lesbians entering in a Olympian parade of city-nations. The sense of empowerment, of gay athletes stepping forward and taking control in an athletic environment, was overwhelming. Back in Toronto, runners and swimmers from the incipient Team Toronto resolved to keep the spirit of the Gay Games alive in our city. Over the coming months they prepared and, in January 1987, placed a small ad in XTRA announcing a meeting at the 519 to discuss starting gay/lesbian swimming and running clubs here at home. The enthusiasm of the approximately 100 athletes who attended the February 6 event surpassed even the optimism of the organizers. From the 519 meeting, the swimming group rushed to the Jimmie Simpson pool and the Downtown Swim Club first dived-in on February 10, 1987. At the same time, Toronto's Out & Out Club had had a running group for a couple of years. About a dozen of us met twice a week for 5-10K runs. The location of the run - from the home of the designated host - changed each week, with the host providing changing and shower facilities and, for the weekend runs, brunch. Sometimes we were described as a social-running and competitive-brunching club, as each host strained to outdo the previous host's brunch menu While the opportunity to run in different neighbourhoods was an attractive feature, the limitations of the model were obvious; how many men can you process through a single shower (a question not to be answered here) within a reasonable time frame and how many men is any one host willing to feed? More significantly our growth potential was limited in that it was a bit intimidating for potential new members who lacked cooking and shower space for a dozen or more. And we were experiencing gentle conflict between those who wanted the runs to be strictly social and those who wanted to enter races and get more competitive. When Gerry Oxford and Brian Pronger, gay activists at U of T, who had led the running contingent at the 519 meeting. approached us after the 519 meeting, we were ready for something new. A few days later, over Sunday brunch at a College St West bistro, Gerry and Brian approached the Out & Out running group to provide a critical mass for a new running group and to talk about a name for the nascent group. While we were familiar with the Frontrunners clubs in New York and San Francisco (already more than a decade old, having sprung from a Lavender University project in 1973), not to mention Patricia Neal Warren's novel of the same name, and agreed we would be following a similar model, our Canadian nationalism led us to choose a distinctive name, Running Wilde, and propose a green carnation, as often worn by Oscar Wilde, as our symbol. The date of the first run is not recorded, but certainly by the end of February 1987, we had commenced Sunday afternoon runs from the University of Toronto Athletic Centre at Harbord and Spadina.! Soon thereafter, Tuesday evening runs from the University Settlement House, behind the Art Gallery of Ontario, were added.! Locations were predicated on the notion that we needed a starting/fiishing point with public access lockers and showers, a notion that we abandoned over the following months. By the spring of 1988 we had settled on Cawthra Park and the 519 as our departure point and our route through Rosedale to Milkman's Run and the Moore Park ravine had been established.! The Sunday afternoon run was shifted to Saturday AM and Tuesday and Thursday evening runs were added although they were initially sparsely attended. Internationally, the Frontrunners movement was growing rapidly.! New York Front Runners invited Running Wilde, attended by clubs from a dozen or more cities in the USA, to participate in the first Frontrunners' invitational in October 1988 where we experienced the gruelling test of running a 10K on the track in Downing Stadium.! It's difficult to say which is the most vivid memory of this event:! was it Bob Lapossie's workshop on how to dress for cold-weather running, including a reverse strip-tease demonstration of layering, or his spectacular finish to the 5K in which he tripped over a curb, falling face-down on the track about 50 metres from the line, AND recovered to complete the race and retain his fiishing place? Something else that came out of that event, no doubt partly as a result of the extremely enthusiastic welcome the American clubs gave their Canadian guests, was a decision to rename our club "Toronto Frontrunners" (all one word) to strengthen the brand and make us more accessible to visitors from other cities.! The new name was announced in the Jan 1989 club newsletter, along with a plan to! maximize our profile and membership in advance of Gay Games III scheduled for Vancouver in 1990.! Pride Day 1989, we marched under a new banner and wearing the first of many Frontrunners Toronto T-shirts. Running Wilde's most ambitious project was Runners for Life in 1988. Fashioned after Boston's AIDS walk, From All Walks of Life, we partnered with the AIDS Committee of Toronto to stage an OTFA sanctioned 10K race, beginning and finishing! on Church Street.! We learned a lot about getting OTFA sanctioning and insurance, dealing with police and sponsors! and more and we managed to attract several hundred gay and straight runners. For many of the straight runners, it was a first-ever event in the gay Village. For all of us, it was a first ever public gay athletic event in our Village. No doubt