The Front Runner

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Whenever Austin native Joseph Halverson is asked to describe himself, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is, “I am a runner.” Halverson, who ran with his father when he was younger, has been at it for 12 years. He’s harnessed all of that experience, including his time dealing with a range of running injuries, leading the Capital City Front Runners.

Displaying the relaxed, good-hearted attitude that native residents are known for, Halverson said he was very proud of how far the CCFR had come during his time as a member. Although he ran in middle and high school, his passion for the sport didn’t merge with community building and awareness raising until he moved back to Austin after a brief stint in Orange County. He’d graduated from UT with honors in mechanical engineering in 2007 and his company, Trinity Consultants, had sent him to work on the West Coast.

1-14This self-confessed math and science aficionado is primarily interested in environmental engineering and he was happy to leave the “suburban matrix” of Orange County to transfer back to Austin two years ago. His coming-out process, which happened gradually and began when he was living in California, was smooth. Halverson gradually revealed more of his truth to friends via social networks like Facebook and with his involvement in different organizations.

Back in the Capital City, he connected with two other runners, Glenn Brown and Chris Whitman, via an invitation to Brown’s birthday party. They invited him to run with the group, which, at that time, had a smaller membership and less active presence in the city.

The CCFR, the city’s running organization for LGBT folks, gained cohesion, pride and publicity from its participation in last year’s Cap 10K; Halverson’s involvement helped them up the ante. “I bought outfits for everyone,” he said. “We made a rainbow, with one runner in all red, another in yellow and so on.”

They had a blast and made new friends along the way, chanting things like “two, four, six, eight, all these runners can’t be straight!” Prior to that, they’d done races, but Halverson’s goal in embracing the symbols of gay pride and putting a more vocal, active face on the group was part of a strategy to promote a positive, healthy image both within the LGBT community and in the city at large.

The strategy has clearly worked. Halverson said most of the response they’ve received has been positive. During last year’s Texas independence relay, which is a 200-mile race from Gonzales and Houston, the Front Runners carried a gigantic rainbow flag for the final 100 meters. “Everyone would just cheer,” Halverson said, adding that they’d decorated and bedazzled their bus with the message “eat our glitter.”

When Halverson was elected president of the group a year ago, one of his tasks was the organization of Austin ’s first ever Pride run. The run, which took place on Saturday morning of Pride weekend, was a huge success, with 700 participants and a significant amount of money raised for the Austin Pride foundation. Halverson, who volunteers about 40 hours per month to the CCFR, will turn over the reins to a new president this June. The group has 150 registered members now and although he’ll miss it, he’s confident in its future expansion.

He’s also volunteered his time as a recruiter for the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, working with someone he considers a “life mentor,” HCRA executive Director David smith. “He has so much positive energy all the time that he just shares with world,” Halverson said. “I knew I wanted to be like him in 20 years.” Halverson has injected a new energy and grassroots enthusiasm into the hrCa, leading regular house parties as a way to build momentum and draw in new participants.

Halverson, who will be attending northwestern University’s joint J.D./MBa program in September, will miss running, as the three-year program’s academic rigor will demand his full attention. He’ll also miss seeing all of his CCFR friends out and about at events, bars and restaurants.

“When I’m running, I’m usually smiling,” he said. “Just experiencing my body and being happy with movement. My running experience is very joyful.”

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