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‘Tis the season for not just LGBTQ Pride, but also Pride fun runs, walks, rolls and strolls.

At least four such events are coming up within the next six weeks throughout Illinois and Iowa:

A Pride-themed 5K usually takes place in Chicago at the end of June, and Cedar Valley PrideFest in Waterloo/Cedar Falls has also hosted a Pride Run/Walk in the past. And southern Illinoisans just held a walk/run event in Carterville Saturday, coordinated by Pride in Action-Southern Il.

Walk/runs provide family-friendly activities for LGBTQ+ community

A chance to do something safe and fun, without alcohol, is one thing these walk/runs provide their communities. Because LGBTQ+ communities often build their communities, social circles and networks around LGBTQ+ bars, events like walks, runs and bike rides can provide a healthier alternative.

“Time and time again, we have heard from LGBTQ+ individuals and families that they want queer-centered events not based around alcohol,” said Tyler Mitchell, marketing director for The Project of the Quad Cities, which coordinates the June 25 Walk, Run and Roll in Moline. “Our families are no different than any other who wish to enjoy time with each other in a way that betters the community.”

The Project’s walk/run raises money for TPQC itself, which provides mental, physical and sexual health services to marginalized communities in 20 counties along the Iowa/Illinois border. TPQC also provides four annual Pride events after joining the nationwide Pride month of June recognition a few years ago.  Pride events honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and now take place in hundreds of communities nationwide in not only June, but also May, July, August, September and October.


Saturday’s fun walk/run raised money for the Southern Illinois PrideFest that’s coming up June 10.

Co-organizer Tim Kee emphasizes the event doesn’t have to be an athletic endeavor. “It’s a great way to have some fun and get fit, but while we’re doing it, we can also eat  while we’re going along, or just talk,” he said.” It’s just a great chance to do something different that can help us, too.”

Rainbow Walk in Niles June 3

The new Niles Pride organization holds a Rainbow Walk June 3.

LGBTQ+ Teens, Adults Have a Greater Need for Physical Activity Opportunities

The run/walks are also a chance to fill a void among LGBTQ+ teens and adults: physical activity.

Study after study shows that LGBTQ+ kids, teens and adults are generally less physically active than the general population, or than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.

At the college level, LGBTQ + students were 17 percent less likely to do aerobic physical activity than non-LGBTQ students, reports the Journal of American College Health last year. They’re also 42 percent less likely to do strength training, considered increasingly important as we age.

Another study showed that “sexual minorities” reported about 1 to 2.5 hours less physical activity per week than heterosexual people. The American Heart Association found that only about 15 percent of LGBTQ+ high schoolers undertook the hour a day of physical activity recommended for their age.

And finally, GLSN found that LGBTQ+ youth are half as likely as their counterparts to engage in either intramural sports or school sports. 


Events like run/walks — most of which are equally welcoming of walkers as runners — provide an opportunity for LGBTQ people who may not be very active to explore a little more physical activity in a fun way.

Physical activity for LGBTQ+ teens often discouraged by bullying, self-esteem, and gender norms

At a time when transgender participation in sports is a hot-button issue nationwide, run/walks also offer a chance to better understand the experience of LGBTQ+ youth when it comes to sports and exercise.

Sexual and gender minority youth often feel unwelcome and “targeted” among their peers at school, which is where most chances for physical activity occur for kids, says clinical psychologist Ethan Mereish to the American Heart Association.

“Students oftentimes experience discrimination, harassment, bullying, victimization and microaggressions related to their sexual orientation in schools,” said Mereish, who researches LGBTQ teens and exercise. The feeling of hostility or rejection can also lead LGBTQ+ people to be less interested in physical activity, less aware of opportunities to be physically active, and less perceptive of why physical activity is important, reports the college health journal.

Thurgood Brooks and friends at least year's Pride 5K Run Walk and Roll in Moline by The Project of the Quad Cities

Social justice advocate and former political candidate Thurgood Brooks, far right, was among those who participated in last year’s 5K Run Walk and Roll by The Project of the Quad Cities.

While it’s important to recognize the important role these runs and walks fill for LGBTQ+ people, Kee emphasizes that everyone needs a better attitude toward physical activity. He’s right: kids overall began to show a decline in physical activity before COVID, and that drop grew worse during the pandemic.

An elementary school teacher, Kee says he has witnessed over the years a waning interest among young people in being active, or working as a team. “Kids aren’t as active, they don’t know how to play games …. We all need to really work on it. This is good for all of us.”

This weekend’s event for southern Illinois is actually open to anyone, anywhere, who is interested in donating $20 to the Southern Illinois Pride Fest effort. Organizers emphasize that anyone can participate in person or virtually, even on their home elliptical or walking in place in their living room, or walking around their neighborhood block, or bicycling, skateboarding, or rolling in a wheelchair.


You can sign up and be part of the run/walk effort here.