February is LGBT+ History Month and British Triathlon is marking the month by sharing stories from the triathlon community and showcasing the sport’s inclusivity.
The London Frontrunners (LFR) are an inclusive running and triathlon club for lesbians, gay and bisexual men and women, trans people and LGBT+ allies which was initially set up as a running club in the 1990s. The LFR triathlon section was formally established in 2017 by Level 2 Coach, Emily Chong and Alex Carington who attained his Level 2 coaching so he could help coach for the club. In the four years since they started, they have grown to 141 members and have celebrated success at a number of competitions.
For coach Alex Carington it was important to establish the triathlon section in club to create a community of people that shared a passion for swim, bike and run.
“LFR has existed as a running club since 1995. When I joined the club in 2016, I realised that a fair number of people who were doing triathlon were training at the club for the run part of triathlon but didn’t really train or interact with each other as a group in the other disciplines,” Carington said.
“The idea grew from a Facebook group that allowed members who have an interest in triathlon and other multisport events to communicate with each other and led to us designing our own kit including our own trisuit and starting to organise group training sessions. The two main reasons for establishing the triathlon section in the club were to create more visibility of LFR’s participation in triathlon and allowing other members to understand what other people were doing and to go to races together which has been great fun.”
In a memorable occasion for LFR Tri, members competed at the Gay Games in Paris in 2018 where over 10,000 athletes from 91 countries competed against each other in 36 sports. The Games were established in the 1980s and promote equality through sport and culture, Carington believes competing at the Games was one of the highlights for the club and the athletes and hopes that they will be able to compete in the Gay Games again in Hong Kong in 2022.
“As a team we have travelled to the Gay Games, Castle Howard and to Portugal and it’s a great feeling to share your success with your teammates,” Carington said.
“We had a small team of nine compete at the Gay Games in Paris in 2018 (travelling with about 30 LFR runners and 800 other GB athletes) and it was fantastic to see LFR Triers racing. There are Frontrunner clubs around the world, but I only know of two with triathlon sections within them, us and New York. It was fantastic to see NYC competing in Paris in their own impressive trisuit inspired by the City. In total we won four medals, two gold and two silvers, and it was fantastic to share the success with the team.”
Now that events have been placed on hold as sports clubs across the country adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic, with training sessions cancelled and racing postponed it has been a challenge to keep people engaged and together. Carington and his co-coach, Emily Chong, took things virtual and it has changed how the club is going to operate in the future.
“Our main challenge has been that we’re based in London and our members come from across the city so trying to find a place for training has been difficult with costs or availability of facilities,” Carington explained. “One of the benefits of lockdown has been that a lot of training has gone online which is something we’d never really considered before but probably spin classes for example we can now do online instead of using an expensive London studio.
“I guess the success story in a sense, particularly in the last 12 months, is that LFR Tri has kept a lot of people together and we’ve managed to run a lot of events which has kept people training through zoom and virtual platforms. My co-coach Emily runs strength and conditioning classes. It has been a bit of a lifeline for people having a support network outside of your household. The only time in the last 12 months for socialising has been exercising outside. In a way that has allowed LFR Tri to come to the fore in facilitating training and we were delighted to win the London League mob match at the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds Virtual Challenge.
As LFR Tri is still relatively new, they are still finding their feet in how best to coach and grow but Carington has been pleased that their members have remained engaged and is hopeful of more growth in the future.
“From my side with the club, we’d like to become more established because we’re still fairly new,” Carington said. “My goal is to get some more coaches so we can offer more activities. In terms of current coaching resource, we only have two coaches. Emily and I share the coaching and we’re both volunteers so we try to do what we can between the two of us and our full-time jobs.
“We currently have turbo, strength and conditioning, and skill-based sessions. We don’t have weekly sessions like some clubs do in terms of cycling and swimming so I would like to grow it to offer more regular training.”
The club is a shining example of the changing landscape of sport and the importance of making sport accessible and inclusive for all. LFR Tri, however, continues to strive for more change and is currently exploring how the club can evolve to see members of the trans community become a key part of the club in the future.
“I would also like to see in the future an increase in participation from the trans community. As a club, I think it is important to work out what barriers might be preventing people from wanting to join and explore how we can be more inclusive in that way.”
For more information about London Frontrunners Triathlon click here