The Boston Marathon to Introduce a Para Athletics Division in 2020

It will be the first division of its kind in a major marathon.

Boston Marathon bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet, center, starts the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Sport has a way of bringing us all together despite our many differences. Whether they are physical, spiritual, or cultural it seems we can put those differences to the side, and for the duration of an event, simply just be athletes. The Boston Marathon made a statement regarding such diversity and inclusion this week by announcing the introduction of a Para Athletics Division in the 2020 race, making it the first major marathon to offer such a category.

What this means is that the Boston Athletic Association will transition from “Athletes with Disabilities” to “Para Athletics Divisions” and “Adaptive Programs.” Athletes must hold the appropriate national or international para athletics classification under the categories vision impairment, lower limb impairment, and upper limb impairment.

The race already offers divisions for wheelchair and handcycles but this new one will give impaired athletes seeking a more competitive atmosphere the chance to compete at a higher level and it will be organized by the same standards as the Para Olympics. There are also high performance standards athletes can meet to be considered for an invitational entry into the race and prize money to be awarded to the top three male and female finishers within each respective category.

“The incorporation of the Para Athletics Divisions in the Boston Marathon will allow us to help sport set a new standard for the way para athletes are recognized in elite competitions,” Tom Grik, CEO of the B.A.A. said in a release. “We aspire to provide participatory and competitive opportunities for all athletes.”

One of those said athletes is Boston-based Adrianne Haslet who is an advocate for amputee rights, having lost part of her leg in the 2013 bombings. She said on her Instagram page how she has been petitioning for a division like this for quite some time and she is “beyond words” that it has come to fruition. She has hopes to break the tape next year herself. “I am proud of the sometimes difficult conversations that needed to happen to get us here,” she said on Instagram. “Being inclusive is what running is all about, regardless of what pace or race you run. Or what your body looks like.”