Chicago Marathon quietly adds non-binary division for runners


CHICAGO — As runners gear up for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this weekend, Fleet Feet employee Jessica Gorden-Song will be on the sidelines. 

“The reason I had to sit out this year is due to the regulations which are in place for trans women,” Gorden-Song said.  

The TransRun founder is transitioning, undergoing hormone replacement therapy, and can’t yet legally compete in the women’s race. But this year, Gorden-Song learned the Chicago Marathon added a new category for non-binary runners. 

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Seventy people have signed up out of the 40,000 taking part in the race. 

Gorden-Song applauds the move.  

“It does promote a sense of inclusion,” Gorden-Song said. “It also is great for anybody who falls on the gender diverse spectrum who doesn’t identify as either male or female, as well as individuals like myself right now, that are maybe in between a part of our transition.” 

Chicago Area Runners Association interim-executive director Tim Bradley echoed Gorden-Song’s sentiments, as the organization made the same move last April. 

“We’re happy to see it,” Bradley said. “We had a race, our Lakefront 10 miler race, we had a non-binary category for the first time and actually awarded prize money as part of the category as well.” 

The New York Marathon also added a non-binary category last year. In 2023, organizers for the Boston and London marathons will add the division. 

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But not all runners are happy, as the move was made quietly with no major announcement made in Chicago. 

“It is a little bit of a slap in the face,” Gorden-Song said. 

While the new category exists, there is no elite division and cash reward for top non-binary finishers. 

“We’re not getting prize money or medals,” Gorden-Song said. “It’s like, ‘yes, you’re included, but we don’t want to include you enough to go ahead to allow you these same rewards for doing well.’” 

WGN News reached out to organizers behind the Chicago Marathon for comment:

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon strives to create a safe and welcoming experience for all participants.  While we’re excited to introduce the non-binary division, we recognize the opportunity for continued dialogue, learning and progress with our event. Discussions are ongoing with non-binary participants and leaders within our sport to work together towards our goal of creating more inclusive event experiences. “

Spokesperson for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Sunday’s run will still have awards for all participants across age categories.

Bank of America also added the non-binary categories for the Shamrock Shuffle and Half-Marathon.

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