With a new Memorial Day date and under new ownership, organizers of the City of Los Angeles Marathon announced today a $200,000 guaranteed prize money purse, clearly signaling that elite athletes would be an important part of their race formula for 2009. The 24th edition of the event is scheduled for Monday, May 25, twelve weeks later than its traditional date on the first weekend of March.
The male and female race winners will each earn $20,000 in cash, and receive a 2009 Honda Accord Sedan EX-L V6 with a retail value of $28,705, organizers said. Prize money will also be paid to the next four male and female finishers: $12,500, $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500, respectively. In addition, a schedule of time bonuses will be on offer this year, beginning at sub-2:07:30 for men and sub-2:20:00 for women ($75,000), going down to sub-2:12:00 for men and sub-2:30:00 for women ($3,000). All athletes who run under the specified times will be eligible for time bonuses, not just the race winners.
The race will also retain its controversial "challenge" bonus of $100,000 awarded to the first athlete, male or female, to cross the finish line based on an as yet undetermined headstart for the women. Unlike other events which feature a gender battle bonus where the headstart is advertised in advance (usually based on the differential between the men's and women's course records) the Los Angeles bonus has usually been released only several days before the race. The event has justified this approach, because by calculating the headstart based on the runners actually entered, they have a better chance to give fans and television viewers a closer race in the final meters.
While the winners' checks at Los Angeles can't match those at the World Marathon Majors events at Boston ($150,000), New York ($130,000) or Chicago ($100,000), an athlete who wins the race in a fast time AND wins the challenge bonus could enjoy a very large payday. For instance, if the winning man runs 2:07:25 and wins the gender challenge, he would walk away with $195,000 in prize money and time bonuses, plus the car.
"The challenge bonus provides an added dimension to our race, and gives elite runners another way to earn significant prize money," explained race director Nick Curl through a prepared statement. "We look forward to attracting an elite field of runners for the 2009 LA Marathon – and beyond."
The City of Los Angeles Marathon was sold last summer by Chicago-based Devine Racing to local businessmen David Kingsdale and Russ Pillar, according to a report published in the Los Angeles Times. Devine, which bought the race in 2004 from race founders Bill Burke and Marie Patrick, was never able to put the event on a solid financial footing. They had difficulty paying vendors and elite athletes, alike. It will be up to Kingsdale and Pillar to re-establish the event's credibility, especially with elite athletes and their managers.
"I feel comfortable immediately, based on the people coming in," said Brendan Reilly, a Boulder-based agent who represents Olympic Marathon champion Constantina Dita and other top Romanian and Japanese athletes. "Absolutely, we plan to put this back on the calendar. We have had nothing to do with it in the last three years since the payment problems."
While participation in marathons has continued to grow strongly, the LA Marathon recorded their lowest number of finishers in four years in 2008: 17,311. The change of date will provide Curl and his team with an additional challenge to promote the event on an unfamiliar date where the weather is likely to be warmer than in March.
Organizers also announced that the race would revert to the loop course used for the 2005 and 2006 editions of the event, which starts and finishes downtown. Kenya's Benson Cherono (2:08:40) and Russia's Lidiya Grigoryeva (2:25:10) established the event records on this course in 2006.