NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

First nonbinary winner of the FireKracker 5K on what it was like to win

Racer Steph Campbell crossing the finish line
Christy Hayes
Racer Steph Campbell crossing the finish line

There’s been a lot of momentum over the past few years to prohibit or limit transgender people from playing sports.

Generally, sports are often divided by gender — women or girls play on one team while men or boys play on another. Trans people not only face barriers to joining the team that matches their gender but also there aren’t many options for people that don’t identify as one of the binary genders.

This year, the FireKracker 5K in Fort Collins decided to do things differently — they offered participants the option to sign up as male, female or non-binary. The FireKracker 5k’s first non-binary winner Steph Campbell joined KUNC’s Yoselin Meza Miranda to talk about their experience.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Interview highlights 

Meza Miranda: It sounds like a pretty uncomfortable situation when you just want to run a race and you’re being asked to identify as male or female

Campbell: I mean, yes and no. I personally kind of identify as agender, so it doesn’t necessarily bother me. For me, the way I experience gender is I kind of don’t want to.

My gender is like having a lot of pockets or being the designated bug wrangler in my household — like nothing that specifically [is] tied to femininity or masculinity. I just feel like me. The more things I get to participate in where I get to opt out of gender being any part of it, the happier I am.

But when I did have a non-binary option, it was super exciting to be like, ‘Oh, someone has recognized that I exist and has given me an opportunity.’

Meza Miranda: So then tell me about the race itself. How did it go? 

Campbell: First of all, I was showing up to represent the Fort Collins Running Club … I wanted to be able to represent the club as a person who I felt I didn't see a lot.

I wanted to be that person, to be the person running in an official singlet while also being chubby and at the back of the pack and not at all looking like [or] having the results of a lot of elite team members.

I’m excited for other possibilities where we get to be more open about all the different kinds of people who run — people who are disabled or fat or neurodivergent or anything like that. No matter how fast you are or how experienced you are, I basically have never met a runner who is not excited to have another person next to them running the same race.

Meza Miranda: So how’d it feel when they called your name for first place?

Campbell: I was not there. (laughing) So you know, I finish in like 40 minutes, which is by no means a fast 5K time. And because I had no idea I was the only person in my category, I just left.

I had never needed to stay for an awards ceremony. I had never been at all in the running for that before, so it never occurred to me to stay. And I didn’t find out until two days later that I had won for my category and won a prize and everything. And it was crazy. I had no idea.

Meza Miranda: What was it like to win? What was that feeling like?

Campbell: I mean, definitely like mixed feelings. Like, obviously, who doesn’t love winning? It was really fun to be like, ‘Wow, I got a trophy and a prize and everything, that’s new for me.’

But everyone’s like, “Wow, you came in first in your category,” and I had to tell all of them ‘I also came in last in my category. (laughing) I was the only person in it.’

And that was kind of disappointing, to be honest. I was really excited to see what that turnout looked like and to have a chance to see who else was on the roster. Like, maybe we could connect, maybe we could talk, and maybe we could get excited about doing other runs.

And so when it finally got uploaded, and I saw I was the only one, I was like, ‘Oh, yay for me, I guess?’ But that’s not what I wanted from the experience.

Meza Miranda: I saw you wrote about your win in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. What do you want people to know about your experience? 

Campbell: I’ve definitely gotten some follow-up questions because it’s gotten way more publicity than I thought it would.

But, like, non-binary is not another gender, it is just an umbrella term — it is for people who don’t want or feel like they fit into either man or woman. And so it’s a super broad category, and there are so many options for the people who might fall under it.

And this is a really cool new opportunity to show how inclusive running can be and how many great opportunities there are, and that running is about being excited for the people who are in your race with you and being excited about what they achieve and supporting each other.

I mean, I love running as a sport, and so obviously, I’m thrilled that running is kind of loving me back at this point with these new options.