As we begin the countdown to the November 6th ING New York City Marathon, there are several threads of interest braided through the men’s and women’s professional fields, both of which are laden with top-end talent. Among these interests are the potential for Olympic selection for London 2012, and the World Marathon Majors© men’s division showdown and its $500,000 payoff. Today, let’s focus on the World Marathon Majors.
Now in its sixth year, the WMMs concept has yet to turn into the public relations focal point for running that the FedEx Cup has for professional golf, or that the Chase for the Sprint Cup has for NASCAR. Yet, for the second straight cycle, the series has peaked nicely in the men’s division.
Of course, nobody who follows the sport will ever forget the epic duel between the now sadly departed Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The last 5K of that battle remains the standard by which all future final marathon miles will be judged. And a great part of the excitement was generated by the fact that the two tiny warriors were competing for a bonus anyone watching could appreciate, half a million dollars. In fact, the prize elevated not just the perception of the competition, it elevated the quality and passion of the competitors, as well.
It is one reason I have argued, ad nauseum, for larger publicly recognized purses or bonuses in our sport. How much one receives for any endeavor in this society either validates, or invalidates, that endeavor by how much one receives for the doing it. That might not be the path to heaven’s door, but it sure is the path to the American Dream. And if we want to attract not just participants, but fans to our sport, our champions must reap the same harvests as our sporting brethren. By maintaining low prize purses and hidden appearance fees, running all but guarantees an ignoring public, including our increasingly rotund kids. (more…)