Boston Marathon to welcome a category for non-binary runners

Photo by: Maggie Wen/ BUNS

By Emily Evangelakos
Boston University News Service

For the first time in the race’s history, non-binary athletes will have the opportunity to register for the 127th Boston Marathon without having to join the men’s or women’s categories.

Registration opened Monday, Sept. 12 and closed Friday, Sept. 16. Runners were able to register for the marathon under the respective categories — men, women or non-binary — as long as they have met the qualifying time within the race’s Sept. 1, 2021 to Sept. 16, 2022 qualification window. The time standard is the same for non-binary and female-identifying runners this year, Chris Lotsbom, a spokesperson for the Boston Athletic Association, wrote in a statement.

“With this being our first year, we do not yet have enough data to establish non-binary qualifying times,” he wrote. “Therefore, for 2023, we will use the women’s qualifying standard times, as they are inclusive of the qualifying times for the two existing divisions. As we prepare for future races, participants can expect non-binary times to be updated accordingly.”

The B.A.A’s decision to add a new race category for non-binary athletes is a step towards inclusivity in the athletic world. For years, non-binary and gender non-conforming runners have had to choose one of the binary categories when competing. 

Alex Balduzzi, a genderfluid runner for Manhattanville College, shared their support for the B.A.A.’s recent decision.

“If I had this option in my running career, I would have felt more myself,” Balduzzi said. “I would not have felt forced into a category.”

Nikki Hiltz, a 6 time NCAA Division I All-American and Balduzzi’s role model, praised B.A.A.’s move on their Twitter account.

“There’s still so much work to be done but I’m thrilled that nonbinary runners are being acknowledged by the Boston Marathon and @BAA,” they tweeted. 

As Balduzzi mentioned, creating an inclusive space allows queer athletes to feel accepted and supported in their identity. LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to flourish when the world around them is inclusive, according to an article from Burrell Behavioral Health.

“​​Statistics show health outcomes improve when LGBTQIA+ kids are affirmed, valued for who they are, have their names and pronouns respected, feel comfortable talking about their identity, and feel accepted by the people in their world,” the article wrote. 

“We view this first year as an opportunity to learn and grow together,” Lotsbom said. “Discussions are ongoing with non-binary athletes in an effort to further promote inclusion at all B.A.A. events.”

Boston joined New York and Seattle in this initiative to strengthen inclusivity. London announced Wednesday they are following suit, and Berlin is right behind them. As some of the most iconic marathons in the world, this collective step towards creating equality is aimed at cultivating active discussions about the LGBTQ+ community and sports.

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