When American Meb Keflezighi crossed the finish line in Boston on Monday, arms outstretched, his triumphant expression greeting an emotional crowd, it was more than a personal win. It was a win for all of the runners who couldn't finish last year’s race, for the spectators caught in the terrorism attack at the finish line, for the survivors, and for the families of those who didn't. It was a win for America in a race that has been dominated by international runners since 1983.
Everyone watching, whether in Boston or on TV, could feel the patriotism, and knew that Meb’s success over a field saturated in unbelievable talent, was one of the biggest and most emotional honors ever earned in the Boston Marathon—more than any prize purse could render. But when Meb crossed the finish line in first place, he did earn a real (and deserved) prize. And he was the first American man in Boston to win since prize money started being awarded in 1986.
Marathons have become a lucrative sport for the top of the field; with distance athletes earning the biggest paychecks of all competition runners. In addition to prize money, athletes are collecting appearance fees, sponsorship money and course-record bonuses. According to an article in ESPN, the draw towards marathon running is becoming so strong, it’s taking runners from other distance races, leading to a decline in participation in the shorter events.
What does winning a marathon as big as Boston earn you? In 1986, the prize was $60,000 and a new Mercedes Benz—a prize that still holds merit among the top races today. In the beginning, it was simply the notoriety and maybe a race medal, as most of the participants were only weekend runners. Today prizes can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars—with the difference between tens of thousands changing with a matter of seconds. The top runners now get a chance at the World Marathon Majors million dollar pot—where the male and female runners with the most points from the six participating marathons split the money at the end of a two year cycle. Many marathon awards are based both on how fast the runners cross the finish line and who comes in first, a complicated system that can literally be determined by a single second. Here are ten of the biggest cash prizes for international marathons.
10 Asics Los Angeles Marathon
9 Chevron Houston Marathon
8 BMW Berlin Marathon
7 Virgin London Marathon
6 Seoul International Marathon
5 Tokyo Marathon
4 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
3 TCS New York City Marathon
2 Boston Marathon
1 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon
Founded in 2000, this small, scenic race of about 15,000 participants is also one of the most lucrative, with a prize purse of $800,000 and $200,000 in world's best time bonuses. In 2014, $200,000 was awarded to both the first place male and female winners. And second place? A cool $80,000. The bonus for setting the World's Best time is $100,000. In January of 2008, the Dubai Marathon was the richest long distance running event in history. The winners received $250,000 (more than double any prize money to that date) and a million dollar offer from Dubai Holding if they set a world best. Unfortunately, no record was set that day, as Haile Gebrselassie won in 2:04:53, which, on that date in 2008, only ranked second in marathon history. He went on to set the 2008 record later that year in the Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:03:59, which currently stands at the fifth best all time Marathon.
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