A Juneau running club is adding a nonbinary category for its races and plans to celebrate the change by offering free registration for those participants in the Ben Blackgoat Memorial Race this Saturday.
Juneau Trail and Road Runners (JTRR) announced the change Monday, declaring it “is catching up with running clubs across the country and athletics worldwide in recognizing nonbinary athletes.” The club included a nonbinary category in three events in 2022, including the annual Juneau Marathon and Half Marathon, with one racer identifying as nonbinary in the marathon.
The category is now official for all events, which will be reflected in reported results and prizes, according to a JTRR press release.
“All JTRR race results will include a nonbinary division for all age groups,” the release noted. “Any race that awards prizes to males and females will also award prizes to nonbinary runners.”
The organization began considering the change in 2021 when a racer asked why a nonbinary category didn’t exist and the organizer of a local race asked about putting a nonbinary category on registration forms, JTRR President Kym Mauseth said Tuesday.
“It’s just taken us this long to get it fully implemented,” she said.
Mauseth said she doesn’t know how many participants might now register as nonbinary. She said she didn’t expect it to significantly affect JTRR’s tallying of results and awards, or expect people to falsely sign up as nonbinary for motives such as competing against fewer racers in a division.
“We don’t want to be put in that situation where we want to decide what somebody’s gender is,” she said, noting such registrations will be on the honor system unless a dispute arises needing attention. “We’re thinking it’s not going to be a real big issue. We’re not giving away anything of value here.”
JTRR stated it is working with the Southeast Alaska LGBTQ Alliance (SEAGLA) to spread the word about the category change to local athletes. The actions are based on guidance from the Road Runners Club of America, including ensuring “nonbinary athletes are eligible for awards and not just entry,” and conducting inclusivity reviews of local club policies and published materials.
“Everyone should be able to participate in sports, and it’s wonderful to see rules evolving to ensure that as many people as possible can be included,” Emily Mesch, a SEAGLA board member, said in a prepared statement.
The Ben Blackgoat Memorial Race, one of the most popular running events in Juneau, offers 2-, 4- and 7-mile races starting at 9 a.m. at the end of Basin Road where Perseverance Trail begins. Online registration for all participants is available, but nonbinary athletes seeking to get their fee waived should register for their racing bib in person at the event, according to JTRR.
The race along the trail is in memory of Blackgoat, a local high school cross country running team member who slipped on a patch of ice along a dangerous part of the trail and fell to his death at the age of 17. Race proceeds go toward the Ben Blackgoat Memorial Scholarship, awarded to high school graduates who have committed themselves to running.
Mauseth said the debut of the nonbinary category is debuting at Saturday’s race because it is the only one by JTRR originally scheduled in June, which is Pride Month (another race that occurred June 3 was delayed from its planned May date).
The race and debut of the new category is also occurring as a controversial battle over transgender athletes is being fought at the statewide level — and in many other states — with Alaska’s state education board voting earlier this month to offer a seven-week public comment period before acting on a proposal to ban transgender females from girls high school sports teams.
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