American-only Prize Money for U.S. Runners
Who won the Boston Marathon? A Kenyan. Who won the Chicago Marathon? A Kenyan. Who won the NYC Marathon? A Kenyan. Are you seeing a trend here? Race after race the Kenyans and Ethiopians are winning the race, as well as the coveted prize money. So is it right that the Pittsburgh Marathon developed a prize for the top Americans, not just the top runners?
Marathons and races did not offer prize money until the 1980s. That's when we started seeing the international competition in American races. That's also when we started seeing Americans get beat race after race. In 1995, the USA Track and Field Organization introduced a series of national championship road races to help American runners rack up points and prizes to help win back the roads. Still, Americans weren't coming out on top. The question remains, will Americans ever come back to win marathons?
Running against other Americans is hard competition but is it as hard as running against the tough international competitors? Probably not.
In 2010, the Bix 7 in Davenport, Iowa hosted the USARC 7-mile championship. Ryan Hall won the race after 19 years of a non-American winning. But this year it was limited to Americans only. If he had competed two years earlier when the race was open to international racers, his time would have placed him sixth overall.
Other races offer more money to the American winner versus the overall winner. This strategy decreases the presence of foreign runners and allows for Americans to take home more prize money. But not at a cost. Winning times slow down and the Americans still aren't beating the Kenyans in other races. Should races continue to offer prize money to Americans over foreign runners?
The opportunity to win money allows Americans to stay in the game. Races who give prize money to only Americans help keep American runners financially able to compete and help their dreams going. It's hard to justify running competitively if you know you never have a chance at winning a race because the foreign competition will always outrun us. Competition is competition and whether American runners are running against other Americans or the Kenyans, they still run as hard as they can.
The Bloomsday 12K in Spokane, Wash., developed a prize purse that brought foreign runners but also encouraged American runners to compete. Over $10,000 goes towards the top American runners with the catch that the U.S. runners have to finish in the top 25 overall to be eligible for the American prize money.
On the other side of the spectrum is Dave McGillvray, race director of Maine's Beach to Beacon 10K, who says that the objective to racing is to showcase the best runners, no matter what country they are from. Race directors with this point of view agree that there shouldn't be a prize purse just for Americans.
The prize incentives for Americans keep Americans in the race and keep the sport alive in America. American times may never be as fast as the Kenyans but that should not stop us from running and encouraging top collegiate runners to go out there and compete.