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Runners support LGBTQ+ community at sold-out ‘Proud to Run’ race

CHICAGO — Over 2,200 runners flooded Montrose Harbor Saturday morning for Proud to Run Chicago, which sold out all its races in its 38th year.

Runners signed up for distances including 5K, 10K and (for the first time) a half marathon. With all funds going towards keeping the LGBTQ+ community healthy, safe and strong, the run has donated more than $600,000 in the past few years.

WGN's very own Mike Lowe was the emcee of the event. Chicago's first openly gay Mayor Lori Lightfoot surprised runners by handing out medals and congratulations at the finish line, her daughter Vivian at her side and wearing a "love is love" t-shirt.

Proud To Run is one of the many places where the LGBTQ community will be celebrating pride weekend this weekend. Lightfoot will also serve as the grand marshal for the Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday. The mayor leaned on her personal experience when addressing the crowd.

“I know this as a black lesbian, that we must continue to fight against hate wherever it rears its ugly head and say, 'not in our city! Not in these times! We will fight you with everything that we have,'" Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot went further, asking those present to support LGBTQ youth and the transgender community.

“They still need our help to break down barriers and discrimination and violence at unprecedented levels," Lightfoot said.

Jami Hockensmith knows that journey well. He came out as trans in February and has started the transition.

“I've come out as like three different things under the LGBTQ spectrum and I think now I finally fully figured out who I am,” Hockensmith said.

In town from Texas, Mandie Tijerina said she was in the military and came out a year ago after she turned in her retirement papers.

"It lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I was tired of hiding. I was tired of being in the shadows with my girlfriends,” Tijerina said. "The military has made great strides in getting rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but I can tell you there’s still a stigma there.”

Many at the run said they’re thrilled to see the mayor openly championing the LGBTQ community.

“I am so proud and humbled to be your mayor and I am especially proud to be here on Pride weekend," Lightfoot said. "We have so much to celebrate."

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