Just this past week, the London Marathon and Boston Marathon made headlines by adding a nonbinary category to their respective race registrations. The two World Major Marathons follow in the footsteps of the New York City Marathon, which added a nonbinary division for the 2021 race, and the Chicago Marathon, which included a nonbinary option for its race on October 9 this year.
“We’re at this moment, right?” nonbinary runner Jake Fedorowski, 26, told Runner’s World. “Yes, we can celebrate. Yes, we can be super excited... But [it’s important] that those announcements are not performative. We have to make sure that they are actually committed to the work and are going to take necessary steps to build out equitable divisions.”
Three months ago, Fedorowski released Guide to Non-Binary Inclusion in Running, a 24-page document outlining how race directors can make their events more inclusive. The guide is available for free on nonbinaryrunning.com, alongside a database of over 200 races with non-binary categories.
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Since they released the guide, Fedorowski has worked with numerous race organizations, including the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), about how to make sure nonbinary inclusion isn’t just a box on the sign-up page. The Chicago Marathon even brought them on as a consultant to assist with the implementation of nonbinary divisions going forward. And while Fedorowski believes that specific DEI roles are on the horizon for road racing organizations, they also understand that not every race has the resources to hire someone. In that case, smaller organizations should include members of the non-binary community in the conversation.
“If you’re a cis white person trying to make these policies that are going to affect people of different identities and experiences, you want to make sure they’re authentic and enact positive change,” Fedorowski said.
The BAA publicly acknowledged on its website that it is still figuring certain aspects out. For example, the BAA’s nonbinary qualifying standard is identical to the women’s for now. In addition, the BAA requires that nonbinary athletes qualify using a finishing time that they ran as a “nonbinary participant” during the qualifying window. However, Fedorowski acknowledged that it’s difficult to set standards until events compile more data on nonbinary participation.
“We view this first year as an opportunity to learn and grow together,” the BAA website reads. “Discussions are ongoing with nonbinary athletes in an effort to further promote inclusion at all BAA events.”
The London Marathon announced in a September 14 press release that there will be a nonbinary category on the ballot entry, which opens October 1. Only about 17,000 of the roughly 40,000 runners gain entry this way.
“We know there is still much more to be done, but changes such as this demonstrate our commitment to making the TCS London Marathon an event that is for everyone,” said Hugh Brasher, the event director.
New York Road Runners, which operates the New York City Marathon, has offered nonbinary entry into all of their events since the Front Runners New York LGBT Price Run 6K on June 26, 2021.
Bank of America, which owns and organizes the Chicago Marathon, offered nonbinary categories in its other two major races, the Shamrock Shuffle and the Chicago 13.1, before adding the option to this year’s marathon. As previously mentioned, the organization brought on Fedorowski as a consultant to assist with further implementation.
Currently, none of these races have nonbinary elite standards in place, as those are subject to World Athletics rules and regulations. Previously, other races such as the Philadelphia Distance Run and Brooklyn Marathon & Half Marathon have offered prize money to nonbinary division winners.
But on the large scale, four of the six World Marathon Majors have set a precedent for nonbinary inclusion that is likely to be replicated at other major running events. Fedorowski believes that as the pressure keeps building, the governing bodies in the sport of running will take notice and make actionable changes for inclusivity.
In the meantime, Fedorowski wants organizations to ask themselves: “Are your race announcers using gendered language? Do you have gendered restrooms? Do you have awards for just the women’s and men’s categories? How are you as an event going to follow through with this public commitment you’ve made?”
Chris Hatler is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but before joining Runner’s World and Bicycling, he was a pro runner for Diadora, qualifying for multiple U.S. Championships in the 1500 meters. At his alma mater the University of Pennsylvania, Chris was a multiple-time Ivy League conference champion and sub-4 minute miler.