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Chicago Marathon adds 'non-binary' category — but non-binary runner says it's not enough

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

For the first time ever, runners in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon will be able to compete in a "non-binary" category.

"Non-binary" is a term that refers to people who identify as neither male nor female.

Wait, what?

That's right. One of the world's most prestigious marathon races is no longer limiting participants to the gender categories of old — "male" and "female" — but is allowing runners who identify as "non-binary" to compete under a self-designated gender identity.

"At the end of the day, we don't want people showing up, being misgendered, having a negative experience. No one is advocating for that," marathon consultant Jake Fedorowski told WLS-TV.

Currently, fewer than 100 runners among the more than 40,000 registered to participate in Sunday's race are competing in the "non-binary" category.

What was the reaction?

For non-binary runner Cal Calamia, marathon officials are not going far enough.

Although Calamia described the development as "exciting," Calamia criticized marathon officials for not making a public announcement recognizing the "non-binary" category. Calamia also condemned officials for not providing non-binary runners with a monetary prize, a finish-line ribbon, or an "elite" category, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"Personally, it feels hurtful because it feels performative, or brushed under the rug, because it really is a big deal," Calamia told the newspaper.

"As a trans athlete, showing up and registering for these races is a hard thing to do, because there’s not usually space," Calamia added. "What makes it easier is when big organizations with a lot of power say, ‘We’re adding this category and we’re proud of it, and we’re doing what it takes to celebrate these runners who are now being invited to our event.'"

When asked about Calamia's criticisms, a spokesperson for the marathon, Alex Sawyer, provided a generic response.

"While we’re excited to introduce the non-binary division, we recognize the opportunity for continued dialogue, learning and progress with our event," the statement said.

"Discussions are ongoing with non-binary participants and leaders within our sport to work together towards our goal of creating more inclusive event experiences," Sawyer added.

Anything else?

Chicago is the second major marathon to add a "non-binary" category. The New York City Marathon first did it last year.

The Boston and London Marathons will also add the category for 2023.

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