Our friends at Letsrun.com wrote a preview of this weekend’s 2nd IAAF Continental Cup from Marrakech, Morocco comparing it favorably to the recently completed IAAF Diamond League tour.
“The prize money for the event is insane as compared to the DL meet. The Continental Cup offers $2.9 million in prize money, that’s more than 6 times what a DL event offers ($480,000) and more than three times as much what two DL events would offer. Each event pays out $73,000, plus four relays, each of which pays out $68,000, for a total of $2.9 million in prize money. All finishers are guaranteed prize money, which is allotted as follows:
$30,000 for 1st,
$15,000 for 2nd
$10,000 for 3rd
$7,000 for 4th
$5,000 for 5th
$3,000 for 6th
$2,000 for 7th
$1,000 for 8th.
That’s a HUGE increase from a Diamond League meet.”
Recall that at last month’s U.S. Open tennis championship in New York, Serena Williams was awarded a check of $3 million for winning her sixth U.S. Open title, and collected an additional $1 million for winning the Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series. Now consider the gulf between the payoffs in these two sports, and the ramifications that develop from it.
As one pundit put it, “Mary (Wittenberg’s) got Caroline Wozniacki (U.S. Open Tennis finalist) running the New York City Marathon. John McEnroe was talking about it during Sunday’s prime time coverage. Now that’s all they’re talking about, not Kipsang, not Mutai, not Edna Kiplagat or Mary Keitany.”
How often have we heard, “well, running isn’t golf or tennis”? As if that alone explains the differences. As if this weekend’s season-ending Fedex Cup prize of $10 million (to one golfer!) was always the way golf was conducted, or that tennis always had a multi-million dollar professional underpinning. Of course they didn’t. Golf and tennis became what they are today by the concerted efforts of many people, including pioneering athletes, event directors, and agents willing to challenge a stagnant status quo.
Life-Time Prize Money Running
Men $3,548,398 (52) Haile Gebreselasie (ETH) 1,886,000 (12) Samuel Wanjiru Kamau (KEN) 1,617,020 (19) Tsegay Kebede Tadesse (ETH) 1,600,938 (48) Kenenisa Bekele Beyeche (ETH) 1,491,630 (27) Martin Lel Kiptolo (KEN) 1,419,122 (17) Emanuel Mutai Kipchirchir (KEN) 1,362,381 (28) Robert Cheruiyot Kipkoech (KEN) 1,338,920 (26) Geoffrey Mutai Kiprono (KEN) 1,301,090 (52) Paul Tergat (KEN) 1,280,620 (85) Khalid Khannouchi (NY/USA) 1,080,370 (80) Mebrahtom Keflezighi (CA/USA) 1,007,205 (26) Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich (KEN)
Women $2,236,415 (56) Paula Radcliffe (ENG) 2,038,595 (31) Irina Mikitenko (GER) 1,795,284 (153) Catherine Ndereba (KEN) 1,482,336 (67) Edna Kiplagat Ngeringwony (KEN) 1,447,910 (90) Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 1,438,280 (44) Getenesh Wami (ETH) 1,423,015 (18) Mary Keitany Chepkosgei (KEN) 1,344,955 (37) Gabriela Szabo (ROM) 1,259,395 (67) Birhane Adere Debela (ETH) 1,095,581 (100) Deena Kastor (CA/USA) 10 $1,077,790 (80) Tegla Loroupe (KEN) 1,016,275 (59) Joyce Chepchumba Koech (KEN) 1,004,970 (206) Colleen deReuck (CO/USA) 1,004,902 (15) Priscilla Cheptoo (KEN)
(Source: Association of Road Race Statisticians)
Note: Numbers in parentheses represent the number of prize money awards.
While nascent athlete unions like Track & Field Athletes Association (TFAA) and the Professional Athletes Association of Kenya (PAAK) have cropped up in recent years, nothing substantive has yet emerged to foster change in the current system. With 18 individual event disciplines for both sexes being contested in Marrakesh, each event valued at $73,000 (along with four relays), there is a total of $2.9 million for the entire top tier of the sport. But, at the same time, the male and female winners of this fall’s World Marathon Majors title will each receive $500,000, and the winner of one of the WMM events can easily bring home near, or in excess of that amount in combined appearance, prize and bonus money.
As we saw at the BofA Chicago Marathon 2010 when Kenya’s Sammy Wanjiru and Ethiopia’sTsegay Kebede battled over the final 5K in what remains the most exciting race I have ever called, having a $500,000 World Marathon Majors’ bonus on the line is a compelling point of interest. I have no idea off the top of my head what finishing time those two men ran four years ago on the streets of Chicago, but their time didn’t make a spit’s worth of difference. The Race was the thing because the stakes were so high.
Right or wrong, in the world of sport money validates. Thus to continue promoting a system where $30,000 is lionized as a big payday, while the vast majority of the money in the sport remains hidden in under-the-table appearance fees and shoe company contracts — vestigial relics of the sport’s amateur past — only guarantees that the public will never look at this sport as truly professional, while its ability to attract the very best athletes to its ranks will continue to be compromised, as well.
Only when all the money is open and visible to the public, and a single athlete is awarded a check with seven figures on it (before the decimal point) can the sport of athletics hope to compete for fan interest and loyalty.