Sunday, June 23, 2024

Danny Riordan runs Monday in the Boston Marathon. (Photo: Riordan family)

Danny Riordan, 24, of Cambridge, and Alyssa Moskites, 30, of Somerville, made history Monday as nonbinary runners in the 127th Boston Marathon – a first-of-its-kind category for the oldest marathon in the world.

The Boston Marathon is among the New York, Chicago, London and Berlin Abbott World Major Marathons in including gender non-conforming registration options this year for participants, marking an inclusive shift in professional sports.

Of more than 30,000 runners, the pair were two of 27 nonbinary participants. Moskites ran the 26.2-mile course in 3 hours, 22 minutes – seconds shy of a personal record. Riordan ran it in 4 hours, 9 minutes, breaking their personal record by 40 seconds.

Monday saw Evans Chebet of Kenya win his second-straight Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 5 minutes for the men’s elite race, and Hellen Obiri of Kenya win the women’s elite race in 2 hours, 21 minutes in what was her second-ever marathon. For Riordan and Moskites, there were other stakes.

Alyssa Moskites on Monday, with their Boston Marathon medal. (Photo: Adri Pray)

“It was so important and so gratifying to be able to compete in the oldest marathon in the U.S. as a nonbinary person. It’s this kind of inclusion that changes sports and makes it more inclusive for everyone,” Riordan said in a pre-race interview. “This is a really important day for trans nonbinary people in sports, and I’m really excited to see how it continues.”

Monday’s race was both runners’ first Boston Marathon. Riordan hopes to have the opportunity to run again; Moskites has already qualified for next year.

Riordan’s first marathon was in January 2018, when they ran Walt Disney World’s Goofy Challenge: a two-day event consisting of a half marathon and a full marathon the day after. In November 2022, they ran the New York City Marathon, their first Abbott World Major; Boston was their second major and 12th overall race in the span of five years.

Boston was the third notch on Moskites’ Abbott World Major résumé, having completed the Berlin and Chicago marathons in 2021 and 2022 respectively, and was their eighth overall race. They ran their first marathon in Hartford, Connecticut, in 2018 and have since run in Brooklyn, New York, and in the Green River Marathon from Marlboro, Vermont, to Greenfield.

Both have competed in a nonbinary categories in smaller local races. They expect more Abbott World Majors: Moskites plans to run in Berlin and Riordan in Chicago this year.

“It always feels good to run as who you are,” Moskites said. “For a lot of my training and working toward qualifying for Boston, I was asking myself while I was running and training, ‘Why do I want to work so hard to get into a race that doesn’t seem to see me or recognize who I am?’” The trans category was announced in September.

The 127th Boston Marathon is the first to include a registration category for runners who are trans and nonbinary. (Photo: Adri Pray)

Outside of running, both are involved in their communities. Riordan is an employee at the Fairmont Copley Plaza and part-time comedian who uses the stage to focus on queer issues, and Moskites does neuroscience research in the pharmaceutical industry and volunteers at the Youth on Fire homeless shelter in Cambridge. It’s important to make as many resources available as possible, they said.

“It’s been so special working here during the marathon, and now to be a part of the marathon and have so many people that have been supporting me the whole way standing [at the finish] like ‘Congratulations!’ That was incredible,” Riordan said.

Before the race, the Boston Athletic Association put the registered nonbinary participants in a Facebook group to introduce the runners to one another. One participant organized a group meetup and “shakeout,” which gave Moskites and Riordan a chance to connect before the race.

“It’s really nice to meet everyone and make more community and meet all these people who are doing really amazing work,” Moskites said. “That was honestly one of my favorite parts: just finding other people who are really passionate about what they’re doing.”

Neither runner experienced backlash from spectators, but said hateful identity-based comments wouldn’t have fazed them if they had.

“Representation in sports matters, and seeing a race with the kind of prestige that the Boston Marathon has that’s inclusive of gender non-conforming identities – not just in saying that they support it, but in creating an official category for it – is insane,” Riordan said. “This is affirmation on the elite level that gender non-conforming people exist and belong in sports.”