The London Marathon is facing criticism after denying a pregnant woman the opportunity to defer her 2021 Championship entry.
Jess Welborn, a 31-year-old lawyer from London, qualified for the London Marathon's 2021 Championship race, which is the competition below the elite race, for serious club and amateur runners. On discovering that she was pregnant with her first child, Jess requested to defer her entry to the next race in April 2022.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Jess said she "naively" thought there would be no problem were her request. The London Marathon is set to take place on 3 October 2021, which is only eight weeks after Jess' due date. Plus, deferrals are allowed for ballot entries (which anyone over 18-years-old can enter).
However, for the Championship race, London Marathon refused to let Jess defer her place. According to The Telegraph, she could either run the October marathon (yep, eight weeks after having a baby), or run a new qualifying time before 31 December 2021 to qualify for the 2022 race. I mean, they're asking *a lot* of someone whose just given birth here.
They also said she could accept a "guaranteed" general entry for a future race or be issued with a refund instead.
NHS guidance currently recommends waiting until "after your 6-week postnatal check" before starting any high-impact exercises, such as "aerobics or running." In her interview with The Telegraph, Jess pointed out that London Marathon's policy appears to directly contravene medical guidance.
Jess explained, "I think the policy at the moment can be detrimental because it encourages women to return to running too quickly.
"It would be very foolish to run a marathon eight weeks postpartum, as it goes against every single medical guidance out there. So I’m effectively having this once in a lifetime opportunity, to run the Championship entry of the London Marathon, taken away from me because I’m pregnant."
Sophie Power, an ultra runner and campaigner for maternity rights in sports, has encouraged London marathon to reverse their decision. In an Instagram post, Sophie wrote: "We need women around the table where rules are made to ensure our needs are included. To ensure we have equality of opportunity."
She continued: "So I asked London Marathon to reconsider. I pointed out how their arguments are flawed. That [Jess's] run will better respect her Championship place at a later date. And that more importantly, we should not force athletes to compete soon after birth or lose their opportunity to do so."
Sadly, London Marathon have stuck by their original decision. In a statement to Telegraph Sport, Hugh Brasher, the Event Director of London Marathon Events, said: "The London Marathon has one of the most generous deferral policies of any marathon in the world. Everyone with a general entry is able to defer their place for one year and we are very supportive to pregnant women... However Championship places are not deferrable under any circumstances."
"The places are awarded on a year by year basis to runners who achieve the necessary qualifying times in the designated qualification window. This is the same principle as a runner going for an Olympic Qualification or World Championship Qualification. The runner must have run the qualification time in the qualification window."
He also referred directly to Jess' situation, saying, "Jess is, in fact, not really asking for deferral but rather that she should be allowed to qualify for a 2022 Championship place based on a performance achieved outside the designated qualification window."
In response to his statement, we can't help but think of the question Sophie Power asked in her Instagram post: "Are you a faster runner 8 weeks or 8 months after giving birth?"
Surely this isn't that difficult?
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