During the heart of Pride Month, Jersey City runners launched The Queer Collective, a running club dreamed up by residents Kristina Nungaray and Jules Bursee, two best friends whose goal is to increase the profile of the LGBTQ+ community in endurance racing.
The club held an inaugural three-mile run for joggers of all speeds on June 21 from the Grove Street PATH station to (and through) Exchange Place.
“While we were fearful of a rainout, we still had some eager runners show up and run together through the rain,” Nungaray said. “We’ve had a pretty significant outreach of people who will be joining us for future weekly runs and who are excited to participate in this running club,” she added.
Going forward, Queer Collective will hold its jaunts weekly. Runs will start each Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. at the Grove Street PATH station plaza. The route is a loop with one- and two-mile versions available as well. Afterward at around 7:30, participants are encouraged to gather at Pint, a nearby craft beer bar, for its weekly free Bearly Bingo or simply hang around and make new friends.
No registration is required. The organizers reassured beginner runners that they are welcome in an Instagram post.
“All levels are welcome! And when we say all levels, we mean ALL levels,” they said.
Nungaray and Bursee are offering this same warm welcome in a second fitness program they are broadening this fall, Say Maybe. Started earlier this year, the effort has consisted of the duo themselves competing in more than 21 endurance events to raise funds for a variety of LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations.
The founders want to increase the visibility of non-binary and other queer athletes, people of color, and those of all sizes and abilities in endurance sports and encourage a wider group of people to experience the camaraderie and excitement of a race day, the satisfaction of completing a triathlon.
“There’s a certain elitism that comes with endurance sports,” Nungaray said. “I have raced with so many people of so many different calibers of strength shape and age and race. And whenever you actually take the time to listen, you still find people who … feel like they don’t belong …”
With a packed schedule and loads of determination, Say Maybe has already raised $5,000 this year for organizations including the Montrose Center, which offers programs and services for LGBTQ+ individuals and their families in Houston, TX; and Summer Bluefish, a program that provides free swim lessons to underserved youth. They are in talks with Jersey-City-based Hudson Pride Center to make a donation to them as well.
The group will implement a free training program for first-time hopeful triathletes in In July in preparation for a triathlon this fall. They are also forming a queer racing team to complete its first Ragnar race, Ragnar Trail New Jersey.
Said Bursee, “There are there are a decent number of queer or LGBTQ+ athletes in the endurance world, but you don’t know them. They’re not in hiding, but there’s no spotlight, no intention, no ‘Listen, you can do this too.’”
Now with two initiatives, the duo hopes to change this.
“Don’t worry about being ‘too slow’ or left behind,” they said in their Instagram post. “We’ve got you.”