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Cal Calamia won the New York Marathon nonbinary division, but won’t receive the winner’s check

In the situation with NYC Marathon’s 2023 nonbinary winner Cal Calamia’s prize money, organizers looked clumsy and clueless.

Cal Calamia’s late surge from mile 16 gave them a win in the NYC Marathon’s nonbinary division in 2023, but due to a stipulation in the rules, they get a medal but not the winner’s check
Ariel Robbins

New York City Marathon nonbinary division champion for 2023, Cal Calamia, had to fight through a lot just to have the chance to race and win in a nonbinary division last November.

Now they are fighting for the fruits of that victory.

This week, Calamia shared on Instagram that the organizers of the race, New York Road Runners, deemed them ineligible to receive the $5,000 prize for coming in first in the nonbinary division.

It has left Calamia again searching for answers.

Last year, Calamia was left in limbo as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency ruled on how to deal with them being on masculinizing hormone therapy. The 27-year-old Californian and former collegiate track athlete came out as nonbinary and transmasculine in 2018 and has been on hormone replacement therapy since 2019.

The fears and worries ended in happiness at a finish line, only to be scorned again. While finishing first in the New York City Marathon nonbinary division, because of a rule by the New York Road Runners — the race organizers — Calamia was hailed as winner of the race, but couldn’t take home the prize money.

A race regulation states that to be eligible for prize money in the nonbinary field, the runner had to be a member of the NYRR for at least six months and compete in several club-sponsored events in a period between the previous NYC Marathon and the following one.

“A few days after the race I hadn’t heard anything. I told them I was in town for a few days after the race and if there was anything I need to sign or anything else to get my $5,000,” Calamia stated to the Runner of the Bay Podcast last week. “They responded to me and they said, ‘You haven’t run six New York Road Runners races in the last year so you actually aren’t eligible to receive prize money.’

Yes, rules are rules. The NYRR did share the financial awards with four other athletes who did meet the criterion.

Yet when the organizers publicly trumpeted the nonbinary field for 2023 — complete with a financial award — certain qualification rules weren’t spelled out amidst the grand announcement that another step forward for inclusion would take place.

To quote Wile E. Coyote as he steps off the cliff: “Yipes!”

Calamia took home the win after taking the lead at mile 16 and staying up front of the division all the way to the finish
Marathon Foto

The NYRR explained in a statement Friday that said rule has been part of their events below the “professional/invited athlete” level (the Olympian-elite top guns) for years.

“We inform all runners, regardless of category, of the rules and prizes at the same time—for each race respectfully,” the NYRR statement reads. “In the case of the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon, we posted the rules and prize money for all runners on our website May 3, 2023. For the Marathon and many of our races, where registration opens prior to the start of our fiscal year which begins April 1 annually, rules and prizes are posted after the fact—for all runners.”

Is the NYRR wrong in this? No.

Yet Calamia is not wrong either, and the statement above points out why.

“They added this stipulation to this division following the registration period. It was not there last year.” Calamia told the Runners By The Bay podcast last week. “They didn’t do any press release or any coverage on it. They didn’t communicate it out directly and they are not going back on it.”

By their own admission, the NYRR didn’t update the criterion in their official communications until May 2023. That’s six months before the race and eight months after they announced this massive paradigm shift for the sport in regard to nonbinary inclusion.

From the initial press release announcing the prize money put up on October 17, 2022
NYRR

Again, rules are rules, but in this situation those rules should have been crystal clear from the second they made their intentions public. Sadly, it now looks like they ad-libbed this and given the tenor of the times for trans and nonbinary country right now, it’s not a good look.

Being a transgender person in this country and seeing sporting opportunities eroded at many levels, any positive step forward is a great thing to see. I applaud NYRR on this initiative.

However, those positive steps forward have to be definitive and clearly executed in every regard.

The New York Road Runners, seeking to advance an inclusive stance and take a step forward, stumbled here. That will happen. Yet, the second they announced the prize money, the rules should have been announced immediately, publicly and clearly.

That didn’t happen.

One part of their response in their statement Friday turned surly when it touched on the support NYRR gave to Calamia in the USADA investigation on them prior to the race. “We have supported Cal on multiple fronts for nearly a half a year in their fight for inclusion–including assisting them with acquiring pro-bono legal representation in their successful therapeutic use exemption battle,” their statement chastised. “We are saddened by their inaccurate portrayal of this matter, as we were the first major marathon to offer prize money to nonbinary runners.”

This seems a bit petty to me, and is a reason why the NYRR should just admit some error and cut the check to Calamia. That defensive statement makes a situation that already looks bad to many, look even worse.

Beyond the check, there is the bigger picture. Given the way this race was initially described last October, waive the six-month, six-race rule for this division and adjudicate who can race and what they can race for along lines similar to the “professional/invited” group.

The qualifying standards for both entry and to be eligible to win prize money are established now. Let all competitors know all the regulations and standards immediately, publicly and clearly, and no one will be unpleasantly surprised at this year’s NYC Marathon in November.

Since revealing this publicly, Calamia has been flooded with support. San Francisco-based Runners of the Bay organized a gofundme to raise $5000 to give to Calamia to make up for the winnings they did not receive. They said on Instagram Thursday, “I don’t want anyone else to go through the same disappointment I did.”

The 2023 nonbinary division winner should not have had to, and the NYRR must insure that no future winner ever will.