Elite runners are joining the calls for better maternity policies in sport, adding their voices to those in the WNBA and in soccer.
WNBA All-Star forward Dearica Hamby called out the Las Vegas Aces this weekend for their “unethical” treatment of her in the wake of her pregnancy announcement. U.S. soccer stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe spoke out in support of Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, who successfully sued her former club for withholding her salary during her maternity leave.
Fiona English joined the chorus this weekend. The runner, who was set to compete in the Boston Marathon in April, took to Instagram on Saturday to address the marathon’s lack of accommodations for pregnant people.
While she described herself as “overjoyed” when she learned she had received a spot in the Boston Marathon field for the first time, the 34-year-old also had recently found out she was pregnant with her first child.
Even during her pregnancy, she has “managed to still race all over the world,” she wrote. But with her due date just two days before the 2023 Boston Marathon, she knew it wouldn’t be possible for her to run the race.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by fiona english (@englishruns)
A post shared by fiona english (@englishruns)
“Obviously running the marathon isn’t just impossible, it would be physically dangerous for everyone involved,” she wrote. “So I tried to defer my place.”
When she reached out to the Boston Athletic Association about a deferral, though, she “was met with the coldest brick wall ever,” she wrote. While she had bought insurance, her claim was rejected.
“Why are you so alienating a section of the population – both financially and through archaic systems that not only discriminate against women but actively make it a costly process to be a woman?” English asked.
As English pointed out in her post, other races — including the London and Berlin marathons — have changed their policies to allow for pregnancy and postpartum deferral.
English is not the only runner to have such issues with the Boston Marathon. Alisa Paterson spoke with UK magazine Stylist ahead of the 2022 Boston Marathon to call out the event’s lack of maternity policy.
“As it stands, the Boston Marathon does not offer any deferral option for women who are in this position – the option is either to run the race whilst pregnant or forfeit your hard-earned place altogether,” she wrote. “When I reached out to the Boston Athletic Association, I received a very ‘computer says no’ response from them confirming that deferring places to the following year is not an option.
“Frankly, I am disgusted by this policy. I’ve had to qualify twice now for this race – I’m clearly fit enough to run it – it makes me so angry and I feel like I’m being punished for getting pregnant.”
The Boston Athletic Association provided a statement to Stylist on its policies.
“The B.A.A does not allow race entries to be transferred, deferred or refunded for any of our races, including the Boston Marathon,” the statement read. “Participants acknowledge and accept this at the point of registration.”