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Now nonbinary runners can compete at Boston Marathon

For nonbinary runners, this year’s Boston Marathon isn’t just a running event. It’s a major milestone in the race for inclusion.

The 2023 race will include a nonbinary division for the first time in the marathon’s storied 127-year history. While other major marathons, including New York City and Chicago, also have nonbinary divisions, Boston remains one of the most prestigious events on the marathon calendar.

It’s considered a bucket-list marathon because the race requires most runners, including those in the new nonbinary division, to earn their way onto the course by meeting strict qualifying time standards.

“Hopefully this has ripples across the country and across the world — in the running world to begin and then hopefully beyond the running world,” said Cal Calamia, a 26-year-old inclusivity activist from San Francisco who will be one of 27 runners competing in the nonbinary division at Boston on April 17.

The London Marathon will also debut a nonbinary division at its race this year on April 23.

Setting nonbinary qualifying times

Calamia, who identifies as nonbinary transmasculine, had qualified to run the 2021 Boston Marathon in the women’s division but then tore their ACL playing soccer. The first thought that went through Calamia’s head was anguish at not being able to run Boston. But the delay offered a silver lining.

“I like to look back on it and just think I’m actually really grateful that things happened the way they did,” Calamia said. “Because I was gonna go in there as a nonbinary person in the female category, and it didn’t feel right.”

Now, Calamia says they don’t have to choose between running Boston and their gender identity. “I don’t have to deal with essentially choosing between two things that aren’t really true and trying to pretend that one of them fits when it doesn’t,” they said.

Calamia has run the Chicago Marathon, California International Marathon and San Francisco Marathon. Their personal best is 2:58:50 from last year’s Chicago Marathon. But to Calamia, Boston is special.

“When I started thinking about running marathons, I was thinking about Boston,” they said.

A big reason for the race’s mythical status is its strict qualifying standards. Qualifying times are now broken down by age groups, and qualifying for Boston — or “BQ” in running vernacular — has become a badge of honor for amateur runners around the world.

One of the challenges of adding a nonbinary division was figuring out the qualifying standards. Race organizers decided that the nonbinary time standards for this year would match those for the women’s division, said Jack Fleming, the chief executive and president of the Boston Athletic Association, which hosts the Boston Marathon.

This year, runners in the women’s and nonbinary divisions ages 18 to 34 needed to run a marathon at 3:30 or faster to qualify. The men in that age range were required to run three hours or faster.

“We landed on having the nonbinary qualifications match the female qualifications, because it was the most inclusive,” said Susie Cleary, the BAA director of athlete services.

The BAA said on its website that the organization does not yet have enough data to establish nonbinary qualifying times and that this first year will be used as an “opportunity to learn and grow together.”

Jake Fedorowski, a 27-year-old from Seattle who wrote a guide for nonbinary inclusion in running, called the decision a “good move.” “You’re doing this to start to collect data so that over time you can start to really tailor what those times need to be,” they said.

Awards but no prize money

Along with Calamia, Fedorowski will run in the nonbinary division. Both will be among the 30,000 runners competing at Boston this year. Of the 27 runners in the nonbinary division, 25 qualified through time standards, Cleary said. Two nonbinary runners applied through the marathon’s charity program, which waives time restrictions in exchange for raising at least $5,000 for a designated charity.

But unlike participants in other divisions, nonbinary runners will not receive prize money. The top three runners in the nonbinary division will be awarded trophies, similar to runners who place top three in their age groups. The winner in the nonbinary division at the NYC Marathon last year took home $5,000, while the Chicago Marathon did not give prize money for the nonbinary division.

The BAA didn’t explain why the nonbinary division won’t include prize money this year. “We will continue to listen to our participants, review our events and continue to strive for the best experience possible for all our athletes,” Fleming, the BAA chief executive, said in a statement.

The first-place finishers in the open division will receive $150,000, winners of the wheelchair division get $25,000, masters division winners get $5,000 and winners of the para divisions, for athletes with disabilities, get $1,500, according to the marathon website.

(04/11/2023) Views: 653 ⚡AMP
Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

Among the nation’s oldest athletic clubs, the B.A.A. was established in 1887, and, in 1896, more than half of the U.S. Olympic Team at the first modern games was composed of B.A.A. club members. The Olympic Games provided the inspiration for the first Boston Marathon, which culminated the B.A.A. Games on April 19, 1897. John J. McDermott emerged from a...


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