It would be easy to look at professional triathlete Rach McBride and assume they always feel at home on a starting line. They have competed in world championship races, won Ironman 70.3 (half Ironman) races and conquered the field in gravel cycling races. But until last year, that wasn’t the case. Despite a long, impressive list of titles and accomplishments, McBride (they/them), a 44-year-old Canadian, always felt a little out of place when he lined up. However, at the 2021 Big Sugar Gravel race in Arkansas, that all changed.

Big Sugar was the first event in which McBride had the opportunity to compete in a non-binary category. The event, McBride says, was nothing short of life-changing.

“For a person outside the gender binary, it can be really dysphoric to have to check an ‘M’ or ‘F’ box on a registration form, to have the wrong gender at the start or finish line, to have to use spaces with genders like bathrooms and changing rooms because there’s no other alternative,” says McBride, who previously competed in the women’s category and publicly came out to the endurance world as non-binary in 2020. “You feel invisible, out of place and worthless.” .

What is gravel cycling and why you should try it

Big Sugar is part of over 30 endurance racing events under the Life Time Athletic Events umbrella. Races include road running, trail running, triathlon, gravel cycling and road cycling, many of them long-established events. As of 2021, they all included a non-binary category.

Although Life Time may be the largest such organization to offer a non-binary split, it is not the only one. In 2021, the Philadelphia Marathon, a popular half-marathon, added the division. New York Road Runners, which sponsors grassroots races and major events like the New York City Marathon, officially added the division as well. And in June, for the first time in its 41-year history, the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon offered a non-binary option. Endurance races of all stripes are making gender inclusion a bigger priority.

The origin of the move by endurance racing organizations to add a non-binary category is uncertain, but for Life Time, it began with a conversation in early 2020, just before the pandemic hit.

“We were talking about our diversity and inclusion efforts, what we had done in that regard and what else we needed to do,” says Michelle Duffy, director of event marketing. “We had a few hours together where we discussed what it means to be non-binary, and honestly, it was the first time we had really dug into it.”

The project connects gender, health and history

Research from GLAAD’s Accelerated Acceptance 2021 study reveals that, in the general public, there is a growing recognition of non-binary and transgender people. About 81 percent of non-LBGTQ report survey respondents say they expect non-binary and transgender people to become a more familiar part of life. However, in the world of endurance racing, categories other than binary men and women have long been absent.

However, coming out of that 2020 meeting, the Life Time team determined it was time to grow and make their events more inclusive. The event producer didn’t make an official announcement about the new race split, but simply worked it into his entries across the board.

“We felt like it was the right thing to do, not something that needed a big splash or marketing,” says Duffy. “What it’s about for us is that people race endurance events as an escape. Everyone should be able to see the outdoors as a welcoming space.”

Despite the lack of intentional hype, however, Life Time was on to something. The first race in her series after adding the non-binary category was her Unbound Gravel 100-mile event in Kansas. Abi Robins, a non-binary athlete, became the first to register in the division, earning a place on the podium. When Robins posted the photo on social media, the news took on a life of its own. Life Time began hearing from other race organizers who wanted to offer the same opportunities to athletes. (Life Time allows transgender women to compete in the female category if they “can provide documentation… [that they have] has undergone ongoing medically supervised hormone treatment for gender transition for at least one year prior to the date of competition.” Transgender men face no restrictions.)

A year after Robins was represented as the only non-binary athlete at Unbound, 17 athletes entered the category at this year’s 200-mile event. McBride was one of them, taking first place in the non-binary division with a time of 11 hours and 56 minutes. “It feels like a new family because we’ve all come from this place where we feel outside,” says McBride. “Being valuable and having the space to compete together is very profound.”

Justin Solle (they/he), a 27-year-old program manager based in New York, understands what McBride is saying. A runner for about 10 years, Solle came out as nonbinary eight months ago and began registering in the division in races sponsored by the New York Road Runners and Front Runners New York (an international LGBTQ running club). “Seeing the category exist allowed me to feel empowered and go out with my running group,” they say. “It’s great to see how the non-binary community is growing and rallying around the category.”

Study shows that “extraordinary” level of exercise does not damage the heart

The addition of non-binary segregation to these New York-based races can be traced to the efforts of Front Runners New York (FRNY) in 2019; FRNY allows participants to self-identify for gender. “We started by offering the option to become a member or renew a membership as a non-binary,” says Gilbert Gaona (he/him), the group’s president. “We then worked with our timing company to add the category to the races.”

Since 2021, the division has existed at every FRNY event and the club has successfully partnered with the New York Road Runners (NYRR) to do the same, including in its 50,000 runner strong New York City Marathon. Gaona estimates there were about 16 non-binary finishers at last fall’s event. “We’ve had a great relationship with NYRR,” he says. “They opened up the option with our Pride Run and we felt supported by them.”

Even with all the progress, putting non-binary divisions into many endurance events hasn’t been without its bumps in the road. For their part, McBride would like to see more triathlons add the option. “I feel optimistic, but progress is moving at a snail’s pace,” they say. “After my experience at Unbound, I realize that I am striving to be a professional athlete on the world stage, and also advocate for inclusivity. It’s a lot to take on, but it’s lit a fire under me to push more for triathlon to add to the category.”

Super short workouts can be surprisingly effective

Other issues to address include timing and marking for qualifying events such as the Boston Marathon. “We have a non-binary member who was fast enough to qualify for Boston in both the men’s and women’s categories,” says Gaona. “But there are no standards for non-binary runners, so they will have to choose a binary category in order to compete.”

And sometimes, even with non-binary splits in an event, a race announcer will misunderstand an athlete as they cross the finish line. “It doesn’t make me angry, but it’s a reminder that the community is still working to figure things out,” Solle says. “The more we come together and be loud and proud, the more attention we can get, so people see us for who we are.”

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *