Greg Larocque was hardly the first runner in a 10K race to emerge into a stadium in Sydney on a scalding hot day in 2002. Actually, he was one of the last. Yet Larocque, wearing a Team Vancouver outfit, received a reception warmer than the 104-degree temperature from fans chanting “Canada, Canada, Canada.”
Making the scene more memorable was Larocque’s HIV-positive partner, Robert Michael Hayes, who was in the stands to witness it. Months earlier, Hayes had moved to Australia to be closer to his family. The pair laughed and smiled at the memory for the remaining eight years of Hayes’ life. “It was a huge gift,” says Larocque of the cheering. “That event in Sydney was transformational.”
Larocque’s statement is hardly hyperbolic. Feeling the emotional lift from completing that race sent the administrative judge in British Columbia toward a path of merging gay rights activism and sports tourism.
As founder of the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association’s North American branch and president of the North America OutGames, Larocque’s mission is to create a safe zone for LGBT athletes to compete in. And through the three-pronged event—comprised of competitions, a human rights conference and a cultural celebration—he hopes to instill pride in the athletes and educate those who hold a bias against the gay community.
“For me, it’s basically doing whatever I can to help LGBT people understand who they are and encourage them to stay true to themselves and live as great a life as they can,” he says.
All the reminder Larocque needs of the importance of his mission comes in the form of the memories of his late partner.
“I don’t do this for me,” says Larocque, who picked up running in his late 50s to lose weight. “I think of Rob and how he would have likely not engaged in unsafe practices and gotten sick if he had really understood what an important person he was… if he had not believed his family saying because he was gay he was sinful. When he didn’t value himself, he made foolish mistakes.”