Trans athlete running as a female in London Marathon labelled ‘wrong and unfair’

Trans runner Glenique Frank (previously Glen Frank) running in the 2023 London Marathon
Trans runner Glenique Frank (previously Glen Frank) running in the 2023 London Marathon

A leading Olympian has said it was “wrong and unfair” for Glenique Frank, a biological male identifying as a woman, to have been allowed to compete in the female category of the London Marathon, after the runner gave a live BBC interview on Tower Bridge declaring “girl power” and “I’m going to be a granny”.

Frank ran in the New York Marathon last November as a man called Glen, but was given dispensation to line up in Sunday’s mass race in London, giving a name of Glenique and finishing in a time of 4hr 11min 28sec. Competing in the 50-to-54 age bracket, Frank achieved a placing of 6,160th among a women’s field of 20,123. In the men’s category, the same time would only have been good enough for 15,386th.

“Nearly 14,000 women finished in a worse finish position because of him,” said Mara Yamauchi, who finished sixth in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics, and who is Britain’s third fastest female in history over the distance.

“This is what the London Marathon is enabling,” argued Cathy Devine, a former lecturer in sport and physical activity at the University of Cumbria. “Zero categories that exclude male performance advantage. Goddess forbid that female runners should have their own category celebrating what women runners can do.”

On March 31, UK Athletics announced a blanket ban on transgender athletes in any of its licensed events, at all levels, declaring it was “fair for athletes who have gone through male puberty to be excluded from the female category in athletics”. But it included a caveat, clarifying that any athlete who had already entered an event in a category that was not their biological sex would remain eligible for that race. It is understood that Frank was a beneficiary of this loophole.

The Women's Marathon. GB's first finisher Mara Yamauchi crosses the line in 6th place - Beijing Olympic Games 2008/Julian Andrews
The Women's Marathon. GB's first finisher Mara Yamauchi crosses the line in 6th place - Beijing Olympic Games 2008/Julian Andrews

Yamauchi hit out at Frank’s involvement, telling Telegraph Sport: “World Athletics and UK Athletics have rules that post-puberty males competing in the female category is unfair. This male competed under UK Athletics’ transitional arrangements, but it is still wrong and unfair.”

It was on Tower Bridge that Frank stopped for an interview with the BBC’s course-side presenter, JJ Chalmers. “This is my 17th marathon, and I’m doing the six majors,” Frank says. I’ve just done Tokyo, I did New York last year. Next year, I’ll do No 6 a week before London. So a week’s rest but…girl power. I’ve also run in the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, where I'm from. Shout out to my beautiful son, who’s having a baby, so I’m going to be a granny….Granny G!” As Frank runs off, draped in the transgender flag of blue, pink and white, Chalmers shouts: “London, baby.”

One former female marathon runner expressed concern that these references to girl power and becoming a grandmother represent a theft of language that should be the preserve of women. There is also alarm in parts of the marathon community that had Frank not been featured prominently in the BBC coverage, female participants would have had no idea about a transgender athlete being in their category.

In this month’s Manchester Marathon, there were at least two biological males running as females. One, marking a “last ever UK marathon as an official lady”, told the 73 per cent of women beaten to “eat my dust”, while wearing a pink T-shirt with the message “F--- UK Athletics”, after the national governing body chose to protect fairness for women in sport.

While most transgender controversies in sport are restricted to the elite level, Yamauchi is adamant that the Frank case should not be ignored. “Some people say that if males are on the podium, it matters, but not if they finish lower down,” she said. “What this effectively says is that women and girls who are not that good at sport don’t deserve fairness, which I think is appalling.”

In New York last year, Frank, running as a male, finished 14,096th out of 26,539 athletes. Frank intends to run both the Berlin and Chicago Marathons later this year, before a Boston-London double in April 2024. “I wonder which category will take his fancy then?” Yamauchi said. “Males in the female category is unfair for females.”