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Marathon man leads LGBT running club
By Gene Naden
2017-06-21

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When Corbin Woodling moved to Chicago in 1990, he had a problem.

Fresh from graduate school at Purdue University, he didn't know anyone here and wanted to find a way to meet people outside of the bars. He had just started running so his first move was to search the Windy City Times classified section for running groups. He found a notice for a gay running club called Frontrunners. He went to their next run and joined immediately.

When Woodling first joined Frontrunners, he could barely run three miles. After running with the group regularly, he trained for and ran his first marathon in Chicago in 1991. He is now on a streak and has run the Chicago Marathon every year since 1997. This April, he completed the London Marathon. It was his 44th marathon. His goal is to complete all six of the World Major Marathons ( he has done four so far ) and have his 50th marathon be the Boston Marathon in 2019. He has challenged himself to run even longer distances. He has completed six 50K ( 31-mile ) ultramarathons. For his 50th birthday, he completed a 50-mile race last fall.

Woodling said of his style, "I'm not the fastest person out there but I'm very consistent. I'm like a clock. I have a friend who calls me 'one speed.' It's just the pace I go for a marathon. My 2013 and 2014 Chicago Marathon times were 3:47:07 and 3:47:08. That's a one-second difference!"

During his 27 years as an active member of Frontrunners, he has been on the board nearly every year. He has served as every officer on the board including President in 1994. He rarely misses a Tuesday or Saturday run with the club. He was given the rare honor of "lifetime" member.

Frontrunners Chicago was started in Chicago in 1982. In 1995, the club was inducted into the city's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. Frontrunners is a global organization with chapters is many cities.

Frontrunners Chicago has about 150 members. On a nice Saturday morning in the summer, there can be more than 40 people. Many people initially think the club is just fast runners but actually it includes many different abilities and speeds. There are walkers, too.

Said Woodling, "It's a welcoming and fun environment where you can meet new friends and realize personal goals. We also welcome and encourage allies of the LGBTQ community to join our club."

Frontrunners volunteers at several local running events including the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K, the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The club has been volunteering for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for nearly 25 years.

Regarding the club's service at the Chicago Marathon, Woodling said, "Our aid station at mile eight is a featured stop on the course. The local news stations set up by us because they know they are going to get a good show and have a great time. All the runners smile when they pass us. There are dancers and cheerleaders with three stages of entertainment plus a total of 230 volunteers who pour water and Gatorade to tend to the 45,000 runners. Each year there is a theme. It's been Broadway, Wizard of Oz, Village People, Disco, Superheroes, Wild West, Weddings and Vegas. This year's theme is a surprise."

One of the other things Woodling likes about the club is that it hosts the Proud To Run event each year. As part of Chicago's LGBTQ Pride Week activities since 1982, Proud To Run is an annual 10K run and 5K run/walk along the lakefront. It focuses on celebrating pride in and raising funds to support the greater Chicago area LGBTQ community. Proud to Run has donated more than $750,000 over the years.

In 2016, Proud to Run had a record turnout of more than 1,800 registrants. Overall, more than 2,200 people participated in last year's event by running, walking, volunteering and sponsoring. This year's Proud To Run event is on June 24th.

Proud To Run is organized by an all-volunteer, community-based board of directors. Woodling has been on the Proud To Run board nearly every year. He was a race director during 2004-06 and he is a race director again this year.

Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago meets at the Totem Pole at Addison and Lake Shore Drive every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and every Saturday at 9 a.m. For more information on the club and Proud To Run, visit FRFWChicago.org andProudToRun.org .


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