Megan Youngren set to be first openly transgender athlete to compete at U.S. Olympic marathon trials

Megan Youngren was one of 63 women who officially qualified for a spot in the 2020 U.S. Olympic trials at the California International Marathon. Her time of 2:43:52 put her in 40th place for the race, and also made her the first openly transgender athlete that will compete in that race to make it to Tokyo, according to Sports Illustrated.

Youngren began her journey into running back in 2013 while trying to boost her health after transitioning. The following year, running had become a consistent part of her exercise routine and in 2017 she ran the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, Calif. It was the first marathon of her life, and it immediately got her hooked onto the sport.

But she wasn’t satisfied there. When Youngren finished the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon at 3:06:42, she wanted to push for a sub-three hour goal.

“I thought that if I worked incredibly hard and took some huge risks that I could run a 2:45,” Youngren told Sports Illustrated. “People will try to put it down by saying, ‘That’s too easy because you’re trans.’ But what about the 500 other women who will qualify? There’s probably someone with the exact same story. I trained hard. I got lucky. I dodged injuries. I raced a lot, and it worked out for me. That’s the story for a lot of other people, too.”

Unlike other competitions that allow runners to qualify and participate within their gender identity, USA Track & Field more closely follows the Olympic rules which applies numerical values to athletes that determine who is and is not allowed to compete as a woman. Trans female athletes must show that their testosterone in serum is below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before competition. It also must remain below that line for the period of the athlete wishes to compete with their gender. These policies haven’t had the same effect on Youngren as they have had on other transgender runners, such as Caster Semenya.

Youngren told SI that she can prove she did “everything by the book.” There was brief concern in late January when her name did not appear on the list of Olympic trial qualifiers. But that was because Youngren was in the process sending in a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone-blocking medication, even though she had already filled out the paperwork everyone else had to. USATF’s women’s long distance running chair, Kimberly Keenan-Kirkpatrick, apologized to the athlete via email saying, “USATF wants to get everything right so there is no room for push back by other athletes, which will make the process easier for you.”

The U.S. Olympic marathon trials will take place on Feb. 29 at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

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