An Open Letter to the Boston Marathon
Dear the Boston Marathon,
My name is Fiona and I was due to run the Boston Marathon for the first time in April 2023.
After 17 marathons, I amazingly, through hard work and determination, qualified running a BQ time at Paris Marathon in April 2022 running 3:27:05 and on that day, taking 17 minutes off my marathon PB in the process. It took dedicated, hard work and guts - all things I know you value and are committed to.
I put my name in the draw for Boston - knowing the cut off time was 3:30 and that it might not be enough but it felt a privilege to be allowed to even apply and a real high moment in my running journey which has seen me go from non-runner to running a marathon in 5:47 all the way through to that previous 3:27:05 BQ.
And I got in. I was overjoyed. And beyond proud of myself. And proud of all the women I could show up for on the day. Because for me one of the biggest things about my personal running journey is I can mark the path for others, "Hey girls - if I can do it, you can do it - follow me!"
Meanwhile in my personal life, at the age of 34 I'd just found out I was pregnant with my first child. During that first trimester my husband and I told no-one and I managed to still race all over the world, fighting off terrible morning sickness to run UTMB OCC, Infinite Trails in the Austrian Alps, the Maverick South Downs Way Ultra and London Marathon. Because I wanted to show up, as I always do, for myself and others.
I'm due to give birth 2 days before Boston Marathon in April 2023. The same day as I would have to pick up my bib number if I was running. Obviously running the marathon isn't just impossible it would be physically dangerous for everyone involved. So I tried to defer my place.
I contacted the Boston Athletics Association to ask about deferral - obviously I can't run the marathon - and was met with the coldest brick wall ever. If I'd bought insurance I could try and get my money back.
I had bought insurance.
I submitted a 'major injury' request (the only tick box I could find) and it was rejected.
So accordingly, Boston Marathon - I am unable to withdraw. If I withdraw I lose the full money I registered with including my insurance money I additionally bought. And I lose my qualifier.
That means postpartum I will need to:
- find the money to replace the money lost to re-enter
- run a qualifier again
- attempt to enter again
All while managing life as a new mother.
The B.A.A states that its mission is to "promote a healthy lifestyle through sports, especially running." So I can't understand the disconnect.
Why are you so alienating a section of the population - both financially and through archaic systems that not only discriminate against women but actively make it a costly process to be a woman.
In the past year, thanks to huge campaigning support from organisations like She Races, both London Marathon and Berlin Marathon changed their policies to allow a pregnancy and postpartum deferral policy. It seems obvious.
And Boston you too have a history of being able to see you need to change old male-centric rules. After all you've gone from physically barring women from entering, to trying to rip them out of races, to now actively working for equal split start lines.
I'll finish by quoting the pioneering women who have gone before me, showing you Boston Marathon that women deserve the opportunity to run - Bobbi Gibb and Katherine Switzer and urge you to not only refund me my entry fee but to change your policy: allow me to defer my place and be allowed to take up my earned place in 2024. For not just me, but women everywhere.
"I ran the Boston Marathon out of love. I believe that love is the basis of all meaningful human endeavour. Yet it was a love that was incomplete until it was shared with others. I thought about how many pre-conceived prejudices would crumble when I trotted right along for 26 miles."
“When I go to the Boston Marathon now, I have wet shoulders—women fall into my arms crying. They're weeping for joy because running has changed their lives. They feel they can do anything.”