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Nonbinary Runners Say Attending Boston Marathon Is 'Important'

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BOSTON (CBS) – The moment Zachary Harris finished the New York City Marathon as the first-ever winner in the race’s new nonbinary category is a moment I wish I knew my high school self was coming to. “I wasn’t good at sports when I was a kid, so it was kind of a surprise to me that I was good at sports. Football and basketball avoided me. [I was] Terrible,” they explained.

Running became an outlet until Harris quit the team due to homophobia and bullying from teammates.

After coming out as non-binary in his junior year of college and feeling welcomed and accepted about seven years ago, Harris found joy in traveling and running again, moving to New York and doing the same. I found people with similar experiences.

“I also joined an amazing group of LGBTQ runners here in New York City. They push me to do my best and take care of my body,” they said.

Harris started running marathons. Each time they entered a race they had no choice and had to select “male” on the entry form. “I didn’t really realize the sort of wall I built around myself over having to constantly check this ‘male’ box for each of my races,” they explained. “In order to be able to run a race, you always have to put your identity as a non-binary person aside, and how micro-aggressive and trauma-inducing that can be, I’m not that kind of person. I think we’ve built a big wall.”

That was until 2021 when Harris entered the Philadelphia Distance Run and then became the first non-binary entrant to enter the New York City Marathon. “It was a great feeling to actually think of myself as a competitive person in this division,” they said.

Harris won the New York City Marathon in the non-binary category for the first time. A few months later, they competed in his 2022 Boston Marathon, which also required him to enter as a man.

To draw attention to gender identities other than men and women, Harris crossed the Boston Marathon finish line wearing the non-binary Pride Flag.

When the Boston Athletic Association announced it, little did they know it was a harbinger of things to come Allow Non-Binary Enrollees I will be racing for the first time in 2023. The BAA already allows non-binary athletes to participate in several other events. In the 2021 virtual marathon, 56 participants were identified as non-binary.

Harris has already submitted his NYC Marathon time to qualify for Boston 2023, this time openly as a non-binary athlete. “I would love to take this opportunity to run the Boston Marathon again and win the Redemption belt…and to be under the first non-binary division. Regardless, I think it is. Non-binary folks, we are here to embody the fact that sport is becoming more inclusive.”

The BAA told WBZ it “will continue to examine finish time data and results from other events offering nonbinary divisions, as well as next year’s Boston Marathon, to determine future qualifying times for nonbinary athletes.”

Harris hopes his NYC time, which is 21 minutes lower than Boston’s qualifying threshold set this year, will be sufficient for qualifying this year.