Non-binary NYC marathon winner loses out on prize money just months after fighting to compete

Cal Calamia.

Non-binary marathon runner Cal Calamia made headlines last year when they became the first winner of the New York City Marathon’s non-binary division – but he’s still waiting on the prize money.

It hasn’t been an easy road to victory for Cal Calamia, 27, who has already contributed to efforts to introduce non-binary categories in the San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston Marathons.

Calamia, a trans-masc athlete, had to deal with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) just last year after it was notified that they had been taking testosterone as part of their gender-affirming HRT. 

Cal Calamia.
Cal Calamia came first in the New York City Marathon’s non-binary division. (Provided)

Eventually, just one month before the New York City Marathon, they were granted a 10-year exemption by USADA that allowed him to run in both men’s and nonbinary categories.

After fighting for their right to participate, Calamia won the New York City Marathon in its nonbinary division with a time of 2:48:50.

But the exhilaration of winning was short-lived when Calamia realised they would not be getting the $5,000 prize advertised by New York City Marathon.

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In a post to Instagram on Friday (19 January), Calamia told their followers that, after reaching out to the New York Road Runners (NYRR) to ask about the prize money, they were told that they would not be receiving it because they were not eligible.

While Calamia had officially won in their division and was handed a first-place medal, the NYRR informed them that they would not be getting the $5,000 cash prize because of a new race regulation.

That regulation states that an athlete is only eligible for prize money in the non-binary category if that athlete has been a member of the NYRR for at least six months and has competed in six club-sponsored events in the lead-up to the marathon.

Cal Calamia.
Cal Calamia was told that they didn’t qualify for the non-binary winner’s prize money. (Keeley Parenteau)

It was a rule that was posted to the New York City Marathon website three months before Calamia had registered for the marathon, local news outlet KRON4 reports.

The other successful athletes in Calamia’s category, who did meet the eligibility requirements, were given their cash prizes – the second-place runner being awarded the $5,000 prize. 

But Calamia argues that the rule was added after the registration period and it was not widely broadcasted or communicated.

When NYRR first announced its nonbinary division, there was no mention of the eligibility requirement. Nor was it mentioned on the New York City Marathon’s Prize Money information page.

“They added this stipulation to this division following the registration period. It was not there last year,” Calamia told the Runners By The Bay podcast.

“They didn’t do any press release or any coverage on it. They didn’t communicate it out directly and they are not going back on it.”

NYRR has confirmed that they waited until May 2023 – six months before the race – to communicate this criteria update, Outsports reports.

Cal Calamia.
Cal Calamia says the NYRR updated eligibility requirements three months after they had registered for the marathon. (Provided)

Calamia, a San Francisco native, told their followers that trying to meet the new criteria in time for the race, had they known about it in advance, would have required them “living in NYC” or flying out to the city on six different occasions to do races.

After Calamia went public with the dispute, having “tried really hard to resolve this directly with the NYRR via multiple emails and a Zoom call”, the NYRR issued a statement on the matter.

Referring to its support of Calamia during the USADA investigation that could have prevented them from running in the marathon altogether, the statement read: “We have supported Cal on multiple fronts for nearly half a year in their fight for inclusion – including assisting them with acquiring pro-bono legal representation in their successful therapeutic use exemption battle.

“We are saddened by their inaccurate portrayal of this matter, as we were the first major marathon to offer prize money to non-binary runners.”

In a post to their Instagram Stories on Sunday (21 January), Calamia responded to the statement.

“I do not think NYRR nor the NYC Marathon are organisations with bad intentions. It is evident they’ve made an effort to be inclusive toward non-binary athletes by introducing the division and prize money for the division,” they wrote.

“That said, this is precisely why accountability is so important here. If you want to be inclusive and tell the world you are inclusive, then just… be inclusive. And be accountable when you make mistakes that cause harm.” 

Sharing a screenshot of the NYRR statement, Calamia asked, if the NYRR had truly been supportive of them, as the statement implies, “Why didn’t they think to notify me of the policy change that would directly impact my ability to compete? Or at least admit they messed up and ask for my thoughts on how to rectify the situation moving forward?

The runner concluded: “I stand by: don’t take credit for things you’re not doing.”

The Runners of the Bay podcast has since launched a GoFundMe to raise $5,000 for Calamia as a way to thank them for their activism and work to “make running a place where everyone can compete and be celebrated for their accomplishments.

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