Five of the six largest marathons in the world will soon allow nonbinary runners to compete in their own division.
Now the real work begins.
Jake Fedorowski, a nonbinary marathoner who created a guide to nonbinary inclusion in running, says they’re thrilled at the recent news about the Boston and London Marathons now allowing nonbinary athletes to compete without having to register in the men’s or women’s divisions. But coming up with an inclusive policy is just the first step.
The implementation is even more important.
“A lot of people are going to celebrate this, and I think it’s worth celebrating, but I also want to state that creating a nonbinary division, or establishing qualifying times, is just one step in the process,” Fedorowski told Outsports. “There’s still so much work to be done. Once these races start to create nonbinary divisions, that automatically brings a level of responsibility to those races. They have to make sure if they’re inviting nonbinary folks into their spaces, are those spaces safe? How is gender at play throughout their events?”
Fedorowski, whom Outsports profiled earlier this year, joined the grassroots movement for races to create nonbinary divisions after repeatedly being misgendered while competing. Zackary Harris, the first ever nonbinary division winner in the New York City Marathon’s 50-year history, expressed similar frustrations when they spoke with Outsports last year.
“I think the best analogy is, just constantly getting pricked with a needle. That’s what it is every time,” they said.
Tired of being pricked, Fedorowski urged organizers of a marathon in Eugene, Oregon, to create their own nonbinary division last fall. While the organizers were sympathetic to Fedorowski’s request, they said they were unsure how to implement a nonbinary category.
Over the next couple of months, Fedorowski embarked on a fact-finding mission, speaking with roughly 30 race organizers and nonbinary runners. Their guide spans 24 pages.
Last week, the Boston Marathon, the most popular running event in the U.S., announced it will allow competitors to select “nonbinary” with regard to gender. The Boston Athletic Association will also create qualifying times for nonbinary runners, which is exactly the kind of additional work that Fedorowski says needs to get done.
“How is this division being treated to the same degree that the men’s and women’s divisions getting treated? Are they getting finishing tape? Are they getting awards and prizes? Are they being featured in your social media?,” they said. “There’s so many layers, that once a race commits to this work — which is a wonderful thing and needs to be celebrated — we then have to continue to follow up with those races, and make sure was it just a performative move for them? Or are they actually committed?”
The London Marathon has also announced its own nonbinary division, and the Berlin Marathon will permit runners to update their profiles for this year’s race, which will be held Sunday. The Chicago Marathon will have a nonbinary grouping this year, too.
The San Francisco Marathon went forward with a nonbinary division for its race July 24. The movement is taking off.
“It’s just so exciting, and I hope we can continue to see these races moving in the right direction,” they said. “This is so exciting for the trans and non-binary communities, but it’s also exciting for the allies, and the people who are just looking for more inclusive spaces. The reality is, as the races start to do this work, they’re going to start to realize all the places within their event that are being exclusionary.”