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PRIDE WEEKEND 2019 Proud to Run marks 38 years with first-ever half-marathon race
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Proud To Run, presented by Frontrunners Chicago, celebrated 38 years with its annual 5K run/walk, 10K run and, for the first time ever, a half-marathon on June 29 at The Grove, just north of Montrose Harbor.

Like last year, Proud To Run's theme was "Run Forward." Race results were immediately available at the event for the 2,204 participants.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her daughter, Vivian, came to cheer on the runners and walkers at the finish line and hand them their medals. Lightfoot also spoke to participants and volunteers ahead of the awards and beneficiaries presentation.

Since its inception, Proud To Run has raised more than $600,000 for various local LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS organizations.

"It was a dream come true to invite Mayor Lightfoot to speak this year," said Proud To Run Co-Director John Avila. "It was also great to have her walk through our race village and mingle with the crowd. I was so proud to be part of this icon Chicago LGBTQ event."

"The passion and commitment of recent race directors have significantly raised the prominence of Proud To Run in the eyes of the entire Chicago community," said Proud to Run Co-Director John Bowen. "The future looks very bright for this event that adds so much to Chicago's Pride celebrations."

Award-winning WGN-TV reporter Mike Lowe returned for the second year in a row to emcee the event. Lowe brought Lightfoot to the stage; announced the first-, second- and third-place winners in each category and introduced each beneficiary representative: About Face Theater Artistic Director Megan Carney, GenderCool Project Co-Founder Jennifer Grosshandler, HOME Executive Director Gail Schechter and LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois Director Jerome' Holston.

Lowe said this year's event was dedicated to Patricia Nell Warren, author of The Frontrunner: A Novel. ( Warren passed away in February of this year. )

"I am so proud and humbled to be your mayor," said Lightfoot. "I am especially proud to be here on Pride weekend."

Lightfoot spoke about having a lot to celebrate as an LGBTQ community.

"Chicago is a beacon of hope," said Lightfoot. "It is a place where people from all over the country can visit and have a moment where they can live their full authentic lives."

Lightfoot said a number of LGBTQ youth are still suffering because their families have rejected them after they have come out, adding that a few LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness will be riding with her during the Pride Parade. Lightfoot also spoke about looking out for the transgender community, and that other communities need support, including Muslims, Jewish people and immigrants.

"We must continue to fight against hate wherever it rears its ugly head," said Lightfoot. "Not in our city, not in these times."

Carney said the grant money will be used so About Face Theater can tour more and spread its message.

Grosshandler spoke about her transgender daughter, Chazzie ,and the origins of the GenderCool Project that she co-founded with Gearah Goldstein. She explained that the organization is youth-led and focused on spreading a positive message across the country. One of the GenderCool Champions, Gia ,also spoke.

Schechter said HOME is the only organization in Chicago that provides intergenerational affordable housing, and is focused on building inclusive and diverse communities.

Holston noted that the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois is 23 years old and has grown to about 300 businesses.

The half-marathon's first-place winners were Melissa Kuhlman ( women ), Steve Browne ( men ) and Ing Swenson ( non-binary ).

First-place winners in the 5K race were Amanda Porter ( women ), Nick Fagan ( men ) and Dan Solera ( non-binary ). The 10K race winners were Mallory Dreyer ( women ), Alvaro Montoya ( men ) and Chris Ramacciotti ( non-binary ).

The 5K mixed-gender team winner was "That hustle. That jam." and the 10K mixed gender team winner was from United Airlines.

Frontrunners Chicago Former President and Proud To Run Former Director David Reithoffer presented Frontrunners Chicago Former President and Proud To Run Former Director Corbin Woodling with a plaque that honored his years of service with the organization.

Ahead of the races, Lakeshore Sports & Fitness' Nicole Thomas led participants in warm-up exercises and local transgender singer Molly Jane Powers performed the National Anthem.

Chicago Spirit Brigade cheered on participants at the start and finish lines and the Lakeside Pride Brass Quintet performed at the finish line.

Following the races, Urban Pooch head trainer Jim Bahr and his dogs performed an agility demonstration, Chicago Spirit Brigade showcased its signature dance moves and Tiny Bubbles Ukulele Ensemble performed.

Urban Pooch co-founders and co-owners Ed Kaczmarek and Dan Gaughan ( who are also a married couple ) spoke about the company's seven-year involvement with Proud To Run and what it means to them.

Also, Windy City Cycling Club members guided runners/walkers along the race course.

Sponsors included Ankura, Bswift, CMSA, Cushman & Wakefield, Fifth-Third Bank, Fitness Formula Clubs, Fleet Feet Chicago, Fred Astaire Dance Studio, here, Jewel-Osco, joyboi Smoothie Bowls, Lakeshore Sport & Fitness, Neurosport Physical Therapy, PepsiCo, Protiviti, RSM, Running to the Beat, SAGIN LLC, Sapphire, Solving IT, TBI, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Thorek Memorial Hospital, Townie, United Airlines, Urban Pooch, William Blair & Company, and ZS.

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