Gay man who took up running at 57 explains how it changed his life: ‘I was the weedy kid at school’

A graphic composed of pictures of members of LGBTQ+ running club the London Frontrunners with a rainbow wash in the background

Robert was 57 when, with no experience of running, he signed up for a half marathon to raise money for the charity he works for.

Four years later, he’s run the London Marathon and recently won his first trophy for finishing a race first among his age group.

“I practically burst into tears,” he tells PinkNews.

“It was the first time I’d ever won anything sporting, and as a rather weedy and inwardly gay school child I never felt sport was for me.”

Catching the running bug took Robert by surprise – he only signed up for the half marathon to encourage others to join him.

He gives a lot of credit to the community aspect of running. Robert is a member of London Frontrunners, an inclusive running and triathlon club for LGBTQ+ and gay-friendly people.

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“It makes me feel good about myself,” he says. “I also enjoy leading runs and other volunteering activities, and seeing the pleasure that running brings to other people.”

Robert, a member of the London Frontrunners.
Robert is a member of the London Frontrunners. (Supplied)

Stephen is another member of London Frontrunners. He was one of the many who, at the start of the pandemic, ordered themselves a pair of cheap running shoes and hit the road.

It wasn’t lockdown boredom that spurred him on.

“Without going into too much detail, I had a major life setback in the autumn of 2020 and it was the final spark which pushed me into the direction of running,” Stephen tells PinkNews. “It was on my radar for a while, but because I am quite severely asthmatic, I didn’t quite believe I could do it.”

Stephen didn’t know just how life-changing running could be.

“It might sound very obvious and simplistic, but running has done wonders for my mental health. I am also greatly enjoying the feeling of getting stronger and faster. Seeing the results of the work I put into running is a great motivation, especially for someone who spent a really long time not believing I could do anything like that. The feeling of achievement and improvement really keeps me going.”

For a long time, Stephen wanted to join a local running club, but found the idea “absolutely terrifying as a trans person”.

“A lot of sports facilities and events are very clearly segregated by gender and it can be really difficult when you don’t quite fit the typical image of how a person of your gender should look like,” he says.

He came into contact with the London Frontrunners when he took part in the annual Pride 10km race, where he met a friend of a friend who was a member of the club, and is now part of a community he knows has his back “no matter what happens”.

“I don’t think I could achieve as much without them and their support.”

Stephen, one of the members of the London Frontrunners, on his journey into running.

Being a member of the London Frontrunners isn’t all about running races – as well as regular social runs through the capital’s parks, there are also brunches and drink events – but it definitely plays a part.

Stephen describes a race as “the culmination of all the hard work you put in during various training runs and it’s always very exciting to see the result pay off”. 

“The race is when you really give it your all, and it often hurts a lot in the process, but after the finish line it feels like it’s been worth it,” he adds. “Especially when there’s lots of others around who finished before and they are there to cheer you at the very end!”

Plenty of people will take up running with the goal of one day doing a major race like the London Marathon – but Robert’s advice is to start slow.

“Give it a go, whatever age you are. Take it gently at first, but give yourself a goal, like doing a Parkrun. And get in touch with London Frontrunners – or our equivalents in other major UK cities – and come along to one of our runs and try us out.”

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