Seattle Runner Creates Guide to Nonbinary Inclusion in Running – runnersworld.com

Seattle Runner Creates Guide to Nonbinary Inclusion in Running  runnersworld.com

Ryan Warner, Courtesy of Jake Fedorowski

Jake Fedorowski decided to stop participating in most road races. Too often, they had been forced to check ‘male’ or ‘female’ on race-registration forms. Or, they had scrolled through race results, only to find ‘other’ or ‘unspecified’ in the gender column beside their name. In some cases, they’d find a blank space. Fedorowski’s frustration with gender categories and how they alienate nonbinary athletes prompted them to create the Guide to Non-Binary Inclusion in Running.

Released on Tuesday, June 14, the guide helps race directors create more inclusive events. It also emboldens nonbinary runners and their allies to have conversations with race directors. The 24-page document, sponsored by Frontrunners Seattle and available for free on nonbinaryrunning.com, draws insight from over 30 industry professionals and athletes. Prior to the guide’s publication, Fedorowski sought feedback from about 50 nonbinary runners. One comment stood out: “I might start racing again.”

“That’s exactly what I want this guide to be,” says Fedorowski. “I want it to build that opportunity again for nonbinary participants. Because they exist. We exist. And having events that are inclusive of them is so important.”

Building an inclusive culture in running

Fedorowski builds on a long and growing legacy—runners who have worked towards inclusion for years. Lauren Lubin—producer of the film We Exist: Beyond the Binary—has been fighting for nonbinary inclusion for over a decade. In 2013, they asked the directors of the New York City Marathon to implement a nonbinary division, but their request was not fulfilled. Finally, in 2021, the Philadelphia Distance Run (PDR) became the first road race in the US to implement a nonbinary division all the way up to the elite level, with equal prize money awarded to winners of the male, female, and nonbinary divisions.

“Nonbinary inclusivity is a human right, and I believe that a lot of people in the racing industry agree with that sentiment,” PDR co-race director, Ryan Callahan told Runner’s World last year. “But most race directors and organizers just throw their hands up and say, ‘it’s too complicated.’” Various races followed the PDR’s lead– including the New York City Marathon, the Brooklyn Marathon & Half Marathon, and the Annapolis 10-Mile. When Fedorowski read about races implementing nonbinary categories, they were inspired to act.

While born into an athletic family, Fedorowski pursued theater throughout childhood and college. In adulthood, they found the language to explain this choice: they didn’t feel welcome on youth sports teams, divided by the gender binary. They began running after college—beside the vast blue of Lake Michigan, on Chicago’s lakefront path. Later, they found a running community in Seattle Frontrunners. But as their love for the sport grew, so too did their frustration.

In November 2021, Fedorowski contacted the directors of the Eugene and Grandma’s Marathons, asking for nonbinary divisions. The director of Grandma’s Marathon was enthusiastic; the director of Eugene was interested, but unsure of next steps. So, Fedorowski began writing down race directors’ questions and searching for answers. What ensued was a series of conversations—calls, emails, and an ever-growing contact list. Fedorowski spoke with over 30 representatives from various organizations, including Brooks, NYRR, and USATF. Their perspectives would form the basis for the guide, which Fedorowski began drafting in January.

How the Guide to Non-Binary Inclusion in Running helps races

“Some race directors might think they just have to add a nonbinary gender option at registration,” explains Fedorowski. “While that is a necessary step, there is so much more work that goes into it.” Fedorowski hopes race directors don’t view inclusion as a checklist. Instead, it’s a conversation; a chance to look at your race, your community, and your resources, and work with them to foster widespread inclusion. Beyond a nonbinary division, it’s important to ensure nonbinary athletes have a bathroom to use, and that race announcers use athletes’ correct gender pronouns.

For race directors who would like assistance with these next steps, Fedorowski offers consultation. They have already partnered with the San Francisco Marathon, in advance of the July 24 race, which will include a new division: Nonbinary+. Fedorowski hopes to partner with additional races in the future.

“By creating a space that’s welcoming and inclusive for nonbinary people, you’re really starting to analyze your race. You’re figuring out how to make it welcome and inclusive for everyone,” they say. And what comes of a race where runners feel welcome? More registrations for one. Then, more sponsors. Ideally, it leads to a larger and improved event.

How the Guide to Non-Binary Inclusion in Running helps athletes

The guide not only serves as a tool for race directors, but also for nonbinary runners and allies. Fedorowski hopes athletes will use it to spark conversation with race directors. Although, to a nonbinary athlete who has been misgendered or otherwise felt unwelcome at races, emailing a director might feel overwhelming. If so, Fedorowski suggests asking a friend, running partner, or community member to help with the conversation.

Above all else, the guide was created for the athletes–those who finally found a supportive community in running, those who will one day find a supportive community in running, and those who hope to pin on a race bib after years on the sideline.

“We see more and more younger folks coming out as nonbinary, or under the umbrella of nonbinary” says Fedorowski. “This is really about creating a better place for the next generation.”

Fedorowski is grateful for the many nonbinary athletes who made the guide possible. They received valuable feedback from Lauren Lubin, as well as Al Hopkins and Rach McBride, all leaders in nonbinary athlete inclusion. They received marketing and design help from Mikah Meyer and Chad Hall, respectively.



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