Boston Marathon changes pregnancy policy after Fiona English’s open letter


It took Fiona English thousands of miles to reach her goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Instead of picking up her race bibs on April 15, two days before the event, English is due to give birth to her first child that day. So her 34-year-old running coach, who lives in London, said in December that she had filed a claim to defer her approved entry until 2024, and her 235 of the insured international runners. I requested a refund of the dollar entry fee.

But she soon “faced the coldest brick wall ever,” as she wrote in an open letter late last month, under rules set by the race’s organizers, the Boston Athletic Association. Denied. Pregnancy is nothing special, but English’s situation seems to have caught race officials off guard.

“Insurance companies don’t track pregnancies. I don’t know how many people you’re talking about, so I wanted to speak up,” she said in a phone interview this week. If I hadn’t told you, I wouldn’t have run for office in Boston.”

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After her letter was posted on her personal website on Jan. 20, the BAA updated its policy a few days later, stating, “Accommodation for runners planning to welcome a child into the family or who has recently welcomed a child. announced enhancement of facilities. Deferred Pregnancy and Postpartum Entry will be available to registered attendees at all BAA-sponsored events. She was told that English’s insurance claim should not have been denied.

BAA President and CEO Jack Fleming said, “When we talk to our participants and stakeholders, we see mothers and expectant mothers participating in our races, especially the Boston Marathon, and building families. The desire to focus on things was clear,” he said. He said in a statement announcing the policy change. “A woman who wants to attend a BAA race and grow her family can do just that without giving up the opportunity to attend her future BAA events.”

English qualified for Boston last April with a personal best of 3:27:05 at the Paris Marathon. She submitted her name to her Boston lottery, knowing that the cut-off time for her age and gender was 3 hours and 30 minutes for her.

“It’s a spine-tingling experience to imagine that one day you might be able to qualify. [for Boston]”When I ran in Paris last year, I was shocked for days at the honor of being able to put my name on it in Boston.”

When she learned she was eligible to run, English wrote in her letter: One of the most important things about my personal running journey is being able to show the way for others.

Then she found out she was pregnant, and her due date made Boston “not just impossible, but physically dangerous for everyone involved,” she wrote.

She has requested a postponement of her entry to the 2024 race, as always advised by marathon organizers, and a refund of her entry fee through purchased insurance. However, when she filled out a pregnancy or childbirth claim form, illness or injury alone was not an option, so she submitted her application as “serious injury” and was immediately denied. You will lose the full amount you have registered, including any insurance purchased on . “And lost the preliminaries, which means that postpartum will have to manage her life as a new mother while finding the money to recoup the money she lost to re-enter the country, and run the preliminaries again to try to re-enter the country. I have.”

She went on to explain why the BAA “marginalizes parts of the population not only economically, but also through an archaic system that makes being a woman a positively costly process. Are you there?” I wondered.

Her open letter found an audience on Instagram, where some sympathetic commenters wrote that she knew the consequences of getting pregnant when she did, but many others supported it. is expressing

English: “I heard from a lot of people who loved Boston, ran the races, and thought it was silly not to have it.” [deferral] Apply the policy. I thought it was really amazing,” she said. “The other thing that overwhelmed me was the number of women who contacted me saying they were blocked from operating somewhere else because of similar experiences. was.”

After the BAA has updated its policy, English will be required to waive the $15 premium and submit the refunded $235 entry fee for next year’s event, but will not be required to re-qualify.

With respect to the new rules, runners seeking to postpone their pregnancy must submit their request in writing any time after receiving confirmation of approval and up to 14 days prior to race date. The organization’s Athlete Services team will then contact the runner to confirm the pregnancy with a doctor, registered midwife, or other medical professional. If approved, the athlete will be eligible to receive deferred entry to any of her BAA races for the next two years.

“To be fair, the response to my letter has been astonishing,” said English.

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This change is not unique to Boston. Of her six major marathons in the world, London and Berlin have implemented Boston-like policies for several years. Others say get them right away.

The New York Road Runners, which host the New York City Marathon, are in the process of changing the rules for this year’s race, which will be held in early November, and said in a statement to The Washington Post that they had registered to run this year and were “pregnant. Runners who get pregnant before they do.” If you do not attend on race day and choose not to race, you may contact NYRR’s Runner Services team to postpone the race to 2024. The organization added, “We will be sharing expansions and updates to the NYRR Pregnancy Deferral Policy in the coming months.”

Officials at the Chicago Marathon are likewise working on plans to postpone “pregnant and postpartum participants” and will soon announce details for the early October race. Officials for the Tokyo Marathon, the first of six major races, did not respond to questions about their policy, which has not been expanded to include pregnancy.

“I’m looking forward to seeing changes in the framework that actually work for women,” said English. Some marathons have been stipulated to be postponed for “up to three years,” and “I think that makes a lot of sense,” she added.

English plans to take advantage of Boston’s postponement next year, and adding the races in Chicago, Berlin and London to its list of completed marathons is significant.

“Considering there will be other women in similar positions next year, I am confident this will be the greatest marathon I have ever run,” she said. When I arrive, my husband Graeme and baby are waiting for me, and it feels like an incredible honor and a real privilege.”

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