I have enjoyed swimming for as long as I can remember. Something about the water, floating free and leaving my cares and worries in my wake. However, swimming is very hard for someone transitioning. I always felt my body was very much on show for all to see and gawk at. So, for a good number of years I felt I could no longer swim. I enjoyed hiking and felt I could still do that for some exercise, even if I did get some stares in the early days. I had never really considered running. My memories of running were cold and muddy cross-country runs in the winter rain at school when the PE teachers didn’t feel like going outside with us.
I grew confidence though and got back in the pool. I had found a new motivation, to help get other trans people back into the water. This introduced me to LEAP Sports, a charity who support LGBTI+ sports clubs such as my fledgling swim group, but also Frontrunners. I was still reluctant to run though.
It wasn’t until LEAP were organising a conference entitled ‘Diverse Identities in Sport’ that running came up again. I was at the conference as part of the promotion of the short film ‘Let Me Be Brave’ and my contribution as a swimmer. I had invited a trans footballer to the conference to speak too. Unbeknownst to me at the time (though there was certainly some hope!) this woman would become my partner and now fiancée. She was a keen runner.
Quite early on into our relationship I went to watch her in a 10k race close to where she lives. The atmosphere of all the runners’ families cheering them on, the adrenaline, the determination was addictive. There was a feeling in me of “how hard could this be?”
I returned to Glasgow invigorated. I should give this a go shouldn’t I? I got an email about road closures around the University of Glasgow because of the Great Women’s 10k. Go on, enter it! So I did, with no running under my belt, just the swimming, two weeks before race day. I tried a couple of training runs and of course blistered my feet and hurt my knees. Couch to 10k in two weeks is not wise! Anyway, I did it.
I was quite worried entering as a trans woman. There have always been controversial debates on fairness of allowing trans women to compete, physiologically unfounded after over a year of hormone replacement therapy at this point. But I was expecting some contention. I needn’t have worried. The question wasn’t ever considered of whether I belonged there or not. Come race day, I was swept up in the atmosphere. Being a women’s race there was a different feel to it. There was more a sense of togetherness among the runners. Male family members lined the route to cheer their loved ones on. The sun was high in the June sky and the heat grew with the spirits and anticipation. Suffice it to say, with only two weeks preparation I wasn’t especially fast, but I finished the race. The exhilaration of running through Glasgow with thousands cheering you on was unbeatable. I heard my name called countless times, “Go on Charlotte!”, “Keep it up Charlotte!”, “You’re doing really well Charlotte”, I must say I teared up. Why had I put this off?
So, hungry for more, I finally joined FrontRunners. Time to get some proper training and run well without pain! Being trans has been no hindrance at all, why would it? But we fear not being accepted in any activity we try. Not being seen for who we are, but told to race with the wrong gender or a gender at all because of poor attitudes and lack of understanding. My first run I was invited to the women’s night out. No one has ever queried my presence. I just belong with everyone else.
LGBTI+ groups have a “T” but often trans people feel excluded. Frontrunners does not exclude and I have felt welcome. However, to attract more and let people feel safe and welcome we need to be explicitly welcoming. FrontRunners states specifically trans friendly and I am proud to be part of the club.
Charlotte McCarroll is the Trans Captain for Glasgow FrontRunners