Boston Marathon change pregnancy deferral policy, following mounting pressure

boston marathon pregnancy policy
Boston Marathon change pregnancy deferral policy

The Boston Athletics Association, organisers of the Boston Marathon, has changed its pregnancy policy to allow pregnant runners who are registered to take part, or who have recently had a baby, to defer their Boston Marathon race entry for up to two years. This also extends to its other events, including the B.A.A. 5K, B.A.A. 10K and B.A.A. Half Marathon. The new pregnancy and postpartum deferment policy is effective immediately.

Until now, runners were unable to defer their Boston Marathon (or other B.A.A. event place) due to pregnancy, meaning they would lose their place and were required to go through the lengthy – and mentally and physically taxing – process of re-qualifying for the event and re-entering.

One runner who fell victim to this policy was 34-year-old Fiona English. Soon after signing up and paying for her Boston Marathon place, English discovered she was pregnant – and would be due to give birth two days before the event in 2023, making it impossible for her to take part.

She submitted a request to the organisers to allow her to defer her place to 2024, or to issue her a refund, but both were rejected.

So, four days ago, English took to Instagram to pen an open letter to the B.A.A., urging them to reconsider her appeal – and their policy – and the post went viral.

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In the B.A.A.’s announcement yesterday, organisers said they 'have been collaborating to create this policy for many months' but the timing suggests English's post hurried their decision-making along – in addition to relentless campaigning by ultrarunner Sophie Power and Ailsa Paterson over the last year.

'In listening to our participants and stakeholders, the desire from mothers and expecting mothers to participate in our races – particularly the Boston Marathon – while also focusing on building a family was clear,' said Jack Fleming, president and chief executive officer of the B.A.A in the release. 'Women who are entered in a B.A.A. race and want to expand their family will be able to do just that without giving up a chance to participate at a future B.A.A. event.'

According to the release, athletes who are registered to take part in any B.A.A. event who is, or becomes, pregnant prior to race day and chooses not to participate due to such circumstances will now be eligible to receive a deferred entry into one of the next two subsequent future races.

Athletes seeking a pregnancy or postpartum deferral will need to submit a request in writing any time between receiving a confirmation of acceptance into the event and up to 14 days before race day. Athletes must then produce a confirmation of their pregnancy from a doctor, midwife, or other medical professional.

Athletes may also request a second consecutive pregnancy or postpartum deferral if they are to become pregnant again during a pregnancy or postpartum deferral period. This would permit the athlete to defer their race entry for a subsequent two-year period. The B.A.A. will allow up to two consecutive pregnancy deferral requests per athlete.

Despite English being denied a refund, the release highlights that the pregnancy deferral change is 'an accommodation in addition to the registration insurance currently offered to Boston Marathon participants, which covers refunds for a variety of situations, including pregnancy'.

Chris Lotsbom, director for race communications and media at the B.A.A. told Yahoo Life that English's refund request had been 'mistakenly denied', stating that 'the B.A.A. has been in contact with the impacted athlete to ensure that they receive a full refund of entry fees, and that process is underway.'

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Boston has been highly supportive of breastfeeding runners for many years, providing tents at the start and finish of the Boston Marathon for mothers to breast pump. Race officials also offer a service to transport breast pumps from the start to finish for athletes who are breastfeeding.

As part of the announcement, the B.A.A. says it will also be enhancing support for recent mothers on race weekend:

'In response to the overwhelming support of this program and the accompanying medical device transport program, the B.A.A. plans to share additional accommodations as race day approaches. The B.A.A. is currently consulting a group of mother runners to help facilitate best practices at our events. More information will be shared with participants over the coming months.'

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