Distance runner Jake Caswell competed in their first New York City Marathon this year, but their milestone achievement didn’t stop there. Caswell won the NYC Marathon’s second-ever non-binary division, and took home a generous cash prize in the process.
For those accomplishments, Caswell is our Outsports 2022 Non-Binary Athlete of the Year.
“It was definitely great, just being able to run as your authentic self,” Caswell told Outsports. “I got a masters in public health, and one of the big things is the social determinant of health, and I think that broadly applies to sport. Being able to line up anywhere — take running for example — going to the starting line as yourself. It just makes the whole experience better and allows for greater participation for people who may not have felt comfortable being at the starting line.”
One of the big stories we covered this year was the addition of non-binary divisions to marathons across the world, including five of the six largest. The NYC Marathon consulted with the New York Road Runners Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee and Lauren Lubin to create its non-binary division.
Jake Federowski, a non-binary marathoner whom we profiled earlier this year, created the guide to non-binary inclusion in running to help organizers of other races to create safe environments for non-binary runners.
Zackary Harris, who won the NYC Marathon’s first-ever non-binary division last year, compared the insulting situation to “constantly getting pricked with a needle.”
Thankfully, Caswell wasn’t forced to choose between their self-respect and desire to compete. They took home a first-place cash prize of $5,000, and Harris, who finished second, won $4,000.
Caswell and Harris are both members of Front Runners New York, the largest LGBTQ running club in the world (Front Runners is a national organization with chapters in nearly every major city). Caswell says joining Front Runners has been an empowering experience.
“I learned the language in college, but I still didn’t quite know what exactly it meant,” they said. “Joining the Front Runners and seeing other people that identify the same way you [do] — that just makes it a lot easier.”
Front Runners New York president Gilbert Gaona told Outsports that Caswell relishes their role as a standard-bearer for non-binary marathoners.
“One thing that is different about Jake is they understand how much representation matters,” he said. “I truly believe that when Jake lines up at the starting line, they are making sure they represent all queer folx, but especially non-binary athletes. They truly inspire our entire community.”
Indeed. Thanks to the experiences of Caswell and others, it is possible for non-binary runners to compete with dignity.