NEW YORK (17-Sep) -- Six past champions have committed to the jubilee 40th edition of the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 1, race organizers announced yesterday.
The six champions --Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil, Martin Lel and Paul Tergat of Kenya, Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa, Ludmila Petrova of Russia and Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia-- all stand to collect a special $200,000 first prize should they win this year's race. That's because the New York Road Runners, the race founders and organizers, have added a special $70,000 bonus on top of the regular $130,000 first place prize for a victory by a former champion.
"This galaxy of champions will be chasing the largest winner's purse in our history and for several, another spot in our record book," said the Road Runners' president and CEO Mary Wittenberg in a news release. "We know already that they have the strength, the speed, and the smarts to win on the streets of New York, and the question is whether they can find that magic formula again this year."
Gomes dos Santos is the reigning men's champion, and was a surprise winner in 2006. Lel was also victorious twice, in 2003 and 2007. Ramaala won in 2004, but was beaten by a fraction of a second by Tergat in 2005 in the closest finish in race history. Petrova, who set the world masters marathon record at New York last year, was the winner in 2000; Prokopcuka is also a two time winner, in 2005 and 2006.
The special $200,000 first prize is part of a record $800,000 prize money purse which also includes a special $150,000 set-aside for the USA Men's Marathon Championship which will be held as part of the New York race this year. Americans Ryan Hall and Brian Sell had previously announced their participation in the championships, part of what organizers say will be the best USA men's field in the history of their race.
The ING New York City Marathon was first held in 1970 and had just 55 finishers, all men. Last year's race had 38,096 finishers from 105 nations and was the largest marathon in the world for 2008.