Post submitted by Don Laonipon, Athlete for Equality

In April 2014, I ran my first marathon in over ten years, finishing in 5:46:27. I knew I could have finished faster, but blisters developed on my feet in the middle of the race, causing intense pain. I wanted to redeem myself in another race, yet I was uncertain that I wanted to invest the time in training for another marathon.

A couple of weeks later, I received an email about a group that was running the Marine Corps Marathon the following fall to benefit HRC Foundation’s (HRCF) Athletes for Equality (AFE). I knew that I had to run this marathon not only for myself, but for other members of the LGBT community who do not have the privilege to be out and proud.  I have been out for about nine years and I feel like I had spent way too long (25 years) not being my true self.

To run the marathon, I had to raise a minimum of $1500.  I went about fundraising by posting a request for donations on Facebook, connecting with friends and advertising my run with other LGBT groups.  As I was promoting Athletes for Equality with HRC Triangle, Triangle Front Runners invited me to join their running group. I met new friends who gave me some valuable hints and support while I was training. In the end, I was able to raise about $1900.

Before I knew it, it was marathon weekend.  I met my fellow teammates on Friday and we had the opportunity to swap stories, chat, and hear how our efforts have helped HRC and HRCF in their missions.  It was also great to be able to see the HRC offices in D.C. and socialize over a meal with some of my fellow teammates.

It was quite breezy and warm on race day. I met a few fellow Athletes for Equality out in the race and chatted for a little while with one of them.  At mile marker 10.5 and 19.5 it was nice to see the huge HRC flags out and the Athletes for Equality cheering squad.  I was really happy to see them; it helped motivate me to keep on going. I crossed the finish line at 4:58:34 and was proud of my achievement.

Overall, I thought the experience was very worthwhile and meaningful. I had the opportunity to learn more about my limits and myself than before I embarked on this journey a year ago.  I am especially fond of meeting my fellow AFE team members, the cheering stations throughout the marathon and crossing the finish line of the marathon.  It was even a rewarding experience raising funds and awareness for HRC and HRCF.  I got to talk to people and share my story and there were many others who showed great appreciation for what I had to say.

Thanks to my partner Greg, my donors, my supporters, and everyone on the Athletes for Equality team for making this an experience to remember.


HRC’s Athletes for Equality are committed to taking a personal stance in the name of equality. Whether LGBT or straight allies, our Athletes share our beliefs about the injustices LGBT Americans face and possess a willingness to push themselves physically to bring forth change.

Interested in joining?
2015 TCS New York City Marathon – limited spots available
2015 Marine Corps Marathon
2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon – limited spots available
2015 Chicago Half Marathon
Visit our registration page to find out how you can get more involved.

Filed under: Athletes for Equality

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