Dublin Marathon exploring nonbinary runner entries for future races

Several big city marathons including New York, London and Boston have a third option of gender race entry

Three years since it was last staged, now just three weeks away, planning for the 2022 Dublin Marathon is near complete, with some future-planning in place too for events to come.

Set for Sunday, October 30th, it will be the first marathon in the capital city since 2019 – the last two editions of the event in October 2020 and again in October 2021 both cancelled due to Covid-19, although they were staged by virtual running means.

Events have moved on in other ways too, several big city marathons – including New York, London, Boston and Chicago – now allowing runners to identify as nonbinary at the entry stage. This gives runners the option to enter as male, female or nonbinary, the term used by people who say they don’t fit into the gender categories of man or woman.

New York first introduced the option last year, Chicago have it in place for their event this coming Sunday, while Boston and London have both added the nonbinary gender option for their next marathons this coming April.


Given the double postponement, Dublin organisers didn’t consider that option this year, although long-serving Dublin Marathon race director Jim Aughney suggests it may become an option for future events, the nonbinary category aimed at increasing inclusiveness.

“We’re certainly looking at that, if it is something we need to add for next year,” said Aughney. “It’s very difficult to accommodate everyone around the gender issue, this seems to be a sort of compromise which has gone down well in places like Boston, London.

“Having said that, up to now, we haven’t had any feedback from anyone telling us they don’t want to register as A or B, can I have C? And until we get those requests maybe people are happy enough.

“But I suspect what will happen after it appears in places like London and Boston is that people will want to look for it, and we’d certainly look at that.”

While there has been a push for greater gender inclusion in sporting events worldwide, the nonbinary gender option is entirely different from transgender athletes looking to compete in male or female categories, some sports such as swimming and rugby already putting in place stricter rules to protect those male and female categories.

For the major marathon events, nonbinary gender entries will not be entitled to compete for elite prizemoney in any of the male of female categories, any transgender runners still bound by national or international rules: “On that matter, we follow the IAAF rules on this, which we’re bound by,” said Aughney

Meanwhile, Aughney has been dealing with other marathon matters in the post-Covid era, including the increase in bicycle lanes around the 26.2-mile marathon route, which has otherwise gone unchanged for the last number of years.

“If you look at the city now, how the infrastructure has changed since 2020, we have all these different bicycle lanes, some out on the middle of the street, all the way around the route.

“Some of those plastic-type bollards are quite low down, a real health and safety hazard for runners, so they have to be removed or else find a way around them.”

The event has a current capacity of 25,000 runners, all entries sold out well in advance for the last two years. Following both cancellations, most entries were twice rolled over to 2022, with a limited number made available via a lottery system.

“Only a handful,” Aughney explained, “and they were snapped up fairly quick to get us back up to the 25,000. The vast majority of entries were those entered for the 2020 race.

“We put on virtual events, in 2020 and again last year, that kept our head above water. We did get support this year from Sport Ireland, through Athletics Ireland, to help us through.”

In January of this year, the Dublin Marathon also secured a new headline sponsorship, Irish Life coming on board for three years, replacing KBC Bank, any further renewal ruled out once it was announced they had plans to exit the Irish market.

“We have an entry fee from 2019, and we’re dealing with costs for 2022,” added Aughney, the basic entry fee for the 2023 event rising from €90 to €110, a move agreed earlier this year.

This year Dublin has also decided not to provide a live stream on the marathon website and social channels: “It’s not a budget issue, we’re just putting more into pre-race videos, training plans, how we can support the runner, all of that.”

RTÉ last covered the event live in 2011: “But we paid for it, over €400,000, to put it out, they did a very good job, but we couldn’t sustain that.

“We’d love to see it on national television, and without necessarily comparing with other events that get coverage on RTÉ, we have 25,000 entries, possibly up to 250,000 out on the streets watching, from all over the country. The flip side is the marathon is a moving event, chasing people for 26.2 miles around Dublin, but again we’d absolutely love to have it on RTÉ.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics