Just over a month after the Boston Marathon announced a new nonbinary category for runners at its 2023 race, the New York City Marathon released its own initiatives intended to make the event more inclusive.
On October 17, New York Road Runners (NYRR), the group responsible for the New York City Marathon, announced an expansion of inclusivity initiatives for this year’s race. The efforts focus on supporting runners in underrepresented, LGBTQ+, and nonbinary communities, athletes with disabilities, and breastfeeding athletes.
One of these initiatives marks major progress for nonbinary runners. In June of 2021, NYRR introduced a nonbinary category for its races, becoming one of the first major running organizations to do so. This year, they’re building on that: The 2022 New York City Marathon will be the first World Marathon Major to award prize money to nonbinary runners. The World Marathon Majors are a grouping of six prestigious marathons that span across multiple continents, including Berlin, London, Chicago, Tokyo, and Boston.
The top five athletes in the new nonbinary category will earn a cash prize, with the top finisher receiving $5,000. The nonbinary category is for general runners only—there is currently not a professional nonbinary category. In the men and women’s open divisions (which is for professional runners), the champions earn $100,000. There is currently no prize money for the top men and women who aren’t pros or aren’t in any other specific category, such as NYRR members or masters.
The New York City Marathon won’t be the first race to offer prize money for nonbinary athletes—the Philadelphia Distance Run and the Brooklyn Marathon and Half Marathon have awarded cash to nonbinary winners—but it will be the first World Major to do so. While Boston, Berlin, London, and Chicago have joined New York in allowing runners to register as nonbinary (Tokyo hasn’t yet followed suit), they haven’t offered cash prizes to their entrants.
In last year’s race, 16 athletes identified as nonbinary. That number has grown, and 60 nonbinary runners are expected to line up at the start this year, Kerin Hempel, CEO of NYRR, tells SELF.
As a result of the push to improve inclusivity, NYRR’s efforts were recognized by the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, the official charity of the historic Stonewall Inn. The organization declared the New York City Marathon a Safe Space for the LGBTQ+ community, based on certification metrics such as proper training, policies, and standards that ensure safety and advocate for equality. This makes the New York City Marathon the first sporting event to earn the certification, according to NYRR.
“A lot of the work we’ve been doing as an organization has been about ensuring people not only feel included, but feel that they have a sense of belonging,” Hempel says.
Another addition? The New York City Marathon is expanding its support for breastfeeding athletes at the race. In partnership with &Mother, a nonprofit cofounded by Olympic middle-distance runner Alysia Montaño—who posted on Instagram that she will be running this year—NYRR plans to offer more lactation stations at different locations throughout race weekend. Private lactation spaces will now be at the expo, at the start, along the course, and near the finish line of the marathon. Organizers will also continue to transport nursing pumps from the start to the finish for runners, as they have for the past 10 years or so.