SF Track & Field Club
by Jim Provenzano
Somewhere, amid the bunnies, multi-legged caterpillars and rolling tiki bars, some serious runners also compete the annual Bay to Breakers.
Several of them are members of Frontrunners, and the Bay Area Distance Runners. Among them are medalists from Sydney's grueling Marathon - make that Half Marathon - competition.
Distance runners got to stride in pride at last Sunday's BADR Half Marathon. The course followed the Embarcadero on May 11, and hundreds of runners participated.
Despite some obstacles, including even getting there on time, Sydney's Gay Games VI, held last November, proved to be yet another of many accomplishments for many local gay athletes.
Said BADR's Dave Studach, a frequent medalist, and longtime running organizer, about the Sydney snafu; "Many runners opted to take later trains (to the Marathon competitions). What wasn't advertised was that the rail link from the Homebush station to the Olympic Park would not be operable until 7:00 - which was the race start time - meaning that probably about a thousand runners arrived about 25 minutes late to the start."
The weather also limited the event.
"It was around 100 degrees and 0 humidity from start to finish with minimal shade," said Studach. "Nobody, including the race directors, anticipated it to be so hot." Thoman heard local volunteers joking that "Even the kangaroos are in the shade."
Discussions between the race director and the medical team continued up to the starting gun.
"The medics wanted to cancel the race because of the heat - which is the prudent course of action - but so many runners had come from far and wide to run that most wanted the race to happen. A compromise was made, encouraging runners to downgrade to the Half Marathon, and Half Marathoners to downgrade to the 10K."
Some of the runners made the switch before and during the race based on the heat.
Despite the negatives, Studach said that, "the race directors did a great job in holding things together and making the race safe for everybody. And, they get kudos for allowing people to downgrade so that they could still participate."
"I just did it, because I've done it every year."
He ran with a friend most of the way. "For us old-timers, it's the only time we see each other."
For Sydney, Hanna had only planned to do the half marathon, and competed at each Games except the first one.
He said that the scheduling problem of late arrivals in Sydney were rectified when officials informed the runners that computer chips tied to their shoes would record their time, even if they started late. So at least accuracy was maintained in makeshift form.
Like other Games, Hanna's race in Amsterdam at Gay Games V was equally exhausting, and limited by extreme heat.
Usually scheduled for the last day of the Games, marathoners often suffer from the weeklong training while trying to enjoy the other events.
"Sometimes, it's like a black cloud over your whole week," said Hanna. "You're always preparing for it."
Yet, he had "much more fun in Sydney. I was much more relaxed, and did a lot more, as far as going to other sports and cultural events."
Having competed in over 50 marathons, the San Francisco attorney said that running, "has definitely been a part of my life, but I keep having to push myself to keep running."
Rochat, an oncologist at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, has been running since he was a medical student in Mississippi.
After working in San Diego with the Navy, in December 1995, he was discharged under the antigay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Rochat used to win races on the Marine Corps base where he worked.
"It was one of the things that kept me sane," he said.
As the male co-chair of San Diego Frontrunners while in the Navy, Rochat was anonymously interviewed for the CBS program 48 Hours. He appeared as "Tony the Tiger" with his face shadowed.
"It didn't get in the way," Rochat said. But his later discharge eventually led to his moving to Santa Rosa with his partner. He finished his fellowship at USC, "where they didn't care if you're gay."
Rochat, 39, also offered a gay veteran's perspective on the recent Iraq War, in which gay military dismissals dropped significantly.
"What was funny was that they decided it would be nice that they'd allow women in battle," Rochat said. "So, a woman next you in a foxhole isn't bad, but someone who's gay could be a problem?"
Having grown beyond such government discrimination, Rochat also competed in the Boston Marathon, and qualified five times. At last year's Catalina Marathon, he placed 35th overall.
Like many distance athletes, Rochat tapers his workout, running longer before a big race. "Because of my work, sometimes it's too long of a taper."
His experience in Sydney was "hot. Very hot. They said it would be spring, but it was full out summer. That was tough. It was also the first time I ever blistered the hell out of my feet."
Still, he's timed well in races before and after the Games.
"Every race is a competition," he said. "It's a competition with yourself, a way of living that applies to more things than running. It's about discipline, dedication. When you push yourself, you find your limits, through failure and success."
Despite saying that the true essence of his love for running isn't about competition, last year he won the BADR Half Marathon, placing first overall.
He accomplished this while dealing with asthma, a condition which he said improves the more he runs, even in such extreme climates as the dry sandstorms of the Las Vegas marathon, or the sheets of rain at the Catalina run.
His attitude about the marathon scheduling changed, he said, "From pissed off to grateful. I was indebted to them for looking out for our health."
"They said if you were not paced to run the Marathon in under four hours, you would be pulled off the course, as soon as the 4-hour mark came around."
"The marathon course was a loop around the external perimeter of Olympic Park in four laps, so it was pretty easy."
Between working as the Interim Executive Director for Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, Carlson has run in marathons in Honolulu and other cities.
Originally from Chicago, Carlson has lived in San Francisco for 30 years, and attended every Gay Games, but he only competed in Sydney.
"In Amsterdam, I got fired up and said, 'Next time, I'm going to be a participant.'"
His four-year process of training started with runs on his own, building up to doing marathons.
Like many runners, Carlson's also done Bay to Breakers, "but that's more of a party."
As for Montreal's Gay Games VII, Carlson is concerned about the repeated financial failures of the host organizations.
"They can't have the exaggerated hopes," he said of Montreal's 2006 Games. "The planning has to be much more realistic. It makes me wonder if they had some financial models that were wrong, or if they're still recovering from the financial shenanigans that plagued Amsterdam. You have to rely less on the circuit parties and more on a greater surcharge."
But Carlson also sees beyond the fiscal woes, and to the ideals of the Games that were accomplished.
"It's always such an emotional experience to be part of the Games," he said. "I've never found anything as affirmative to gay life, than for that celebration. To march out with my city, to an Olympic-sized stadium audience, was just a tremendous rush. It made me prouder of being gay than all thirty years of the parade up and down Market Street combined. It says, 'We're here and we're athletes.'"
"We're doing this in the spirit of friendly international competition. Our unifying theme is that we're all gay or queer or whatever. It's a tremendous feeling to realize that I have a link to somebody in Algeria or India."
BADR TO THE BONE
They usually train for four marathons a year; spring, summer, fall and winter, with a step-up training program for each marathon. Also, for those wishing just to keep a base going, their "weenie runs" offer shorter workouts.
For more info, visit their site, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming running events include the 24th Annual San Francisco Pride Run at Golden Gate Park, June 28th. Register online through Active.com for the 2003 Pride Run, or visit SF Frontrunners.org for all your running questions.