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Sometimes people run to raise money for a charitable cause. Sometimes they run to get away from problems or ex-lovers. Sometimes they run simply because it feels good.
Such a chance will come up again August 13 with the fourth Pride Track and Field Championship at San Francisco State's Cox Stadium. The championship, sanctioned by USA Track and Field, serves as the international championship for LGBT track and field and is open to any competitor regardless of orientation. Organizers say they expect about 125 athletes, mostly from California.
Aaron Castillo, spokesman for host San Francisco Track and Field Club, said events will begin at 8 a.m. and run until about 4 p.m. Most standard track and field events will be held, but without steeplechase or race-walking. Medals will be awarded to each of the top three finishers in each age group.
SF Track and Field was founded in 1982 by athletes who had competed in Gay Games I. The club practices three times a week and seeks to get former track athletes back into the sport as well as help would-be athletes who want to try the sport.
Castillo, 40, ran track at Hesperia High School in San Bernardino County, where he said he was "the fourth fastest runner. That means I was on the relay teams, but I wasn't going to be a star in college."
Castillo knew he was gay when he was young but grew up in a religious household where such topics were left unspoken. "Coming out was an internal thing for me â€"overcoming the sense of self-loathing," Castillo said. "I knew at an early age I needed to keep this secret. I focused on academics to steer away from partying and girls."
In college he began to come to terms with his sexuality.
"I never really had any negative problems with coming out," he said. "My parents didn't throw me out of the house. It's been so long ago I don't even think about it. Looking back to when I competed in high school when I was not out, I knew that being gay and an athlete is fine. My friends knew about it but they never thought anything of it."
Castillo moved to the Bay Area in 2008 and found SF Track and Field the next year. "They train and have meets from January until about October," he said. "I decided it was a great thing to do with what I do at the gym."
Castillo is a sprinter and plans to enter the 800-meter run in this year's championship, but last year at the Gay Games in Cologne he entered the decathlon. That's the same event in which Gay Games founder Dr. Tom Waddell competed in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Castillo earned a silver medal in the grueling event in Cologne.
"There were 17 decathletes at the Gay Games, which is a lot," he said. "They're all very supportive because you're all feeling the same pain over a few days."
Castillo said that same kind of support is one of the reasons he enjoys SF Track and Field.
"I love the camaraderie," he said. "The team is amazing. The guys and gals are super-supportive. We're very supportive. We train people regardless of what their fitness or experience level is. The more you train, the better you become."
Competitors must have current USATF membership. Online registration is available at http://www.pridemeet.org for $35 until August 1; and day-of-competition registration will be available at Cox Stadium for $45. There is a $5 fee for every added event beyond relays.
SF Track and Field trains Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at Cox Stadium; Sunday sessions at Cox are at 10 a.m. Practices usually run about 90 minutes to two hours. For more information on the club, visit http://www.sftrackandfield.com.