• Photo for Interview with Gay Games Athlete Reggie Snowden
    Photo Credit: Reggie Snowden

Interview with Gay Games Athlete Reggie Snowden

By L.K. Regan

In the lead-up to the Gay Games, we are interviewing a few of the inspiring athletes traveling from the U.S. to Cologne, Germany to compete at the end of this month. Today we're introducing Reggie Snowden, a 45-year-old track and field athlete from San Francisco. Read our interview with Reggie, get to know him, and get in the spirit of the Games!

Can you tell us a little about your background?
I am originally from Portsmouth, Hew Hampshire and born in Kittery, Maine. Currently I call San Francisco my home after attending Yuba Community College and California State University, Chico. I have always been athletic. I play football, volleyball and tennis besides running. I love track and field and have been competing for 30 years. Former All-American in high school and I specialize in the 110 hurdles. I also triple jump, long jump, and make myself do the 400 intermediate hurdles. I have been trained to compete in multi T&F events. In high school at the end of the year, I competed in the Decathlon and progressively got better until my senior year when I placed second. I left high school with various school records in the hurdles and triple jump, and with multiple MVP awards.

Can you tell us a little about your family? How do they feel about your sexuality and your participation in the Games?
I am a military base brat! I was raised on an Air Force base (Pease AFB), and I have two brothers. I am the middle child. My family has always been supportive with my being gay. My parents always attended all sporting activities I competed in and I was thrilled to have returned to Boston to compete in the US Masters Track and Field indoor Championships to compete in the Pentathlon a few years ago. I ended up winning while they were watching with my nephew. It seemed like old times! In regards to the Gay Games, they love the fact that I am still competing through various injuries and because it keeps me in good shape as I get older.

What do you do for a living?
Currently I am working in Retail Management for Eddie Bauer. Great company to work for because they encourage employees to get outside and stay active. I used to be an San Francisco Deputy Sheriff ten years ago. In fact, in 1998, prior to leaving to compete in Amsterdam for the Gay Games, I was offered a job and was anxious to return to  SF to start my new career at the time. 

Also I volunteer my time with other organizations. For five years, I volunteered with our Mayor's Office for Community Investment with being on the advisory board for a great 10k road race called the Stadium to Stadium Challenge. It was great to start the event and watch it grow and get bigger and bigger every year. 

I am also active with International Front Runners as the Western Region US Representative. I have been giving support to other Front Runner organizations for the past eight months. Spanning from Austin, Texas to New Mexico and Sacramento, I have been offering support to other Front Runner clubs with a goal to bring a better communication network amongst our community. 

Do you compete in other contexts than the Games?
Outside of the Gay Games, I continue to compete with the US Track and field Association. I have competed in numerous United States Masters Track and Field Championships and I have won a couple Pentathlons, hurdling events and managed to place in the long jump and triple jump. For off-season training, I run with the SF Front Runners and I was President in 2006 and VP a couple years before that. I have led our group in interval training, trying to woo long distance runners to the track! I will compete in miracle mile events and various 5ks throughout the year also. 

What does being in the Games mean to you in terms of your athletic experience?
The initial reason I chose to compete was so the world could see decent times achieved that will compare to the best times in the country. I would like for other runners, gay or straight, to be able to look at the times and say "Wow, these times or distances are pretty impressive!" My bigger goal is to see the Gay Games get to the level where more individuals, gay or straight, want to attend the games for competition. While it might not be the Olympics, and the theme is participation, I still want to win!

Have you participated in the Games before? If so, how does this Games feel different than the others?
I have competed in 1994 in New York, 1998 in Amsterdam and 2002 in Sydney. The major difference with the Gay Games and other track meets or sporting festivals I attend is the people and the relationships. In Amsterdam, the theme was "Friendship." At the first one in New York, I established great relationships on and off the track. For the athletes on the track, it was great to meet athletes from Sweden, Czech Republic and Switzerland amongst other countries. After New York, in Amsterdam four years later, it was great to see familiar faces and re-establish relationships again. The huge difference from New York and Amsterdam was the Internet! We didn't have Facebook, MySpace or twitter! I barely could afford a computer! It was easier to keep in touch with other participants after Amsterdam. 

In Amsterdam, my favorite moment was walking the streets and coming across the Homomonument. Two guys asked me to take their picture. As I took the picture, one of the men started to cry. They didn't  speak English and I didn’t speak their language, but they had me in tears as we hugged and they said thank you.

Would you be willing to tell us about an obstacle—personal or physical, or both—that you have had to overcome in order to arrive at this year's Games?
My own personal struggle that I am working to overcome this year is to return to the track again! Five years ago when I was still in the off-season, I was playing volleyball on court and ended up snapping my Achilles tendon. It was on my lead leg, my jumping leg and my strongest leg! In less than a year was the Gay Games in Chicago and I thought at the time there was still a possibility that I could compete. I registered but could not attend. Following surgery, I had a series of related injuries that included pulled hamstrings, aching knees and shin splints. I tried to return to the US National Masters indoor championships in 2008 but fell short again due to hamstring issues. My return to Cologne will represent my return to competition that I have missed for the past few years. This week I competed successfully in my first track meet and feel good with the exceptions of a few sore muscles and joints. Snapping my Achilles was the second worst injury I have sustained in my life. In 1984, I snapped my femur bone hurdling at the Bruce Jenner Classic. Thank goodness, I recuperated from that!

What are some past experiences that made you want to come back?
I look forward to my trip to Cologne and my emphasis will be on competing, but even more important will be creating lasting friendships for the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. After competing in Sydney in 2002, I wanted more people to see how amazing the Gay Games are and what they have achieved. I felt so inspired that I started a scholarship fund with Katharine Holland, a fellow San Francisco FrontRunner. Our goal was to give financial assistance to members who could not afford to attend the Gay Games. While the fund was not utilized in 2006, we are honored to have recipients utilize the funds to hopefully experience some of the great moments I have had attending the Gay Games.

What, to you, is the spirit of the Gay Games?
The true spirit of the Games to me is simply "Friendship." I held onto one of my medals from the Gay Games in Amsterdam for a keepsake, but I have given some of my medals away to people that have great significance in my life. I think of the Olympic torch that burns every Olympics and of what it represents: purity and perfection. For me, the only difference is purity and participation. It's great to be on the track watching the 3000-meter, and you hear people cheering for every single participant. As cheesy as it sounds, every participant is a winner in this respect. First, for competing, and second, for finishing the race. But also, for myself, as I get older and do not run as fast as I used to, I still want to continue establishing great times that will be recognized. While participation and completing every race is just as important, I will set personal goals to reach also. There are posted All American standards that I will aim for in every event.