Carol Pierce, co-founder, co-chair 1981-82, 2006

September 25, 2016

Interview in our 35th Anniversary series by John Lockhart

In 1981, after you and Jeff Wynne sounded the call for gay and lesbian runners to meet on a summer Saturday for an 8AM fun run at Sixth and Laurel in Balboa Park, what did you expect and what happened?

On July 7th, seven or eight men and women showed up. Excited, scared and anxious, we said our purpose was for physical activity in a healthy environment, conducted pre-run stretching, ran and ended with “See you next week!”

How long did it take to adopt a name, schedule, and membership and a dues structure?

Jeff and I had read the novel, “The Front Runner,” by Patricia Nell Warren, so the name was a natural, and we had a plan—including raising money to print a member newsletter, and for Front Runners T-shirts.

In the pre-tech world, how did Front Runners communicate with members and perspective members, and the G&L community?

Mainly, through the monthly newsletter, mailed or handed out at Saturday runs, visiting clubs and organizations, posting on bulletin boards, and responding to information requests.

In common with every segment of the G&L community, especially in the 1980s, Front Runners was impacted by the pandemic of AIDS. How did the club respond?

We all came together to help and do what we could in the face of having no idea of the causes or boundaries of what became known as AIDS. To help, the club formed “The Extra Mile,” setting up a calendar for members to help with household tasks, run errands, shop, support partners and provide a break those taking care of their partners and friends. (note: FRWSD had a contingent of 23 runners and walkers in the SD AIDS Walk & Run on September 24, 2016 and raised nearly $2,000 as part of the club's effort to support the community)

What Big Picture changes do you see between Front Runners of 1981 and Front Runners & Walkers of 2016?

Far more walkers now, higher percentage of women then, fewer now, more male direction of the club now, and, of course, technology.

You had the moniker “Director of the Wardrobe” for organizing the design and sale of club-branded clothing and accessories. How did you market club attire?

I wore club shirts and hats all around town seeing others doing the same, great conversation openers. Front Runners shirts were in the 1982 Pride parade, a special thrill.

Your accomplishments include running and race-walking in the Gay Games, and Senior Olympics. How has athletics affected your life?

Add mini triathlons to the list. All have enriched my life, made me lots more comfortable being gay, and by meeting other athletes and their supporters.

Over the years, FR&W has grown, and expanded. In July, more than 900 ran and walked the 5K along the Hillcrest Pride Parade route. From registration fees, the club has continued to contribute thousands of dollars to LGBT community projects. What do you see in the club’s future?

Pride—that we can donate to community organizations, pride in the club’s growth, our presence in the annual AIDS Walk, pride in staying the course as primarily a gay and lesbian club, pride in attracting members, especially the young, pride in encouraging women to participate and lead, and pride in reaching out to the wider GLBT community.