© Copyright – 2012 – Athletics Illustrated
Photo: (Markus Schreiber/AP)
The World Marathon Majors series is pointless and does not accomplish what it has set out to do. Most world-class marathon runners that are focused on peaking for the Olympics and World Championships and are dealing with recovery or injuries are not able to compete in enough events to earn the points required to compete for the World Marathon Majors prize purse, so they don’t bother. There typically remains a field of just a handful of East Africans that compete to the end, which is not edge-of-your-seat sporting competition to say the least.
Athletes can only compete in so many marathons per year – the toll is too much, one each in spring and fall, respectively. The prize structure kills any competitive aspect, as first place wins all the money and second gets zero; puts a new literal spin on one becoming the fastest loser! Additionally, the WMM is an exclusive series that only includes the largest marathon events: Berlin, London, New York, Chicago and Boston – smacks of an old boy’s club.
The series awards the overall female and male winners with a prize purse totaling $1,000,000, which is split between the two winners. The athletes need to earn enough points during the two-year span of the series to win.
A PLANNED VICTORY?
For the 2011/2012 series Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai and Dennis Kimetto, appeared to have planned the final race finish so that Mutai could win the $500,000 and Kimetto – a marathon virgin – would get paid (one would assume). Mutai won the race in 2:04:15, one second ahead of Kimetto. This is a decent effort and time and it looks good on the surface however, the two – who happen to be training partners – simply ran together through the finish line with neither initiating race-like behavior. They might as well have held hands into the chute. Queue the yawn.
The Berlin Marathon and WMM appear to be ok with the planned victory. From the Berlin Marathon website:
“Kimetto, the World Record Holder at 25m earlier this year in the same city, stayed behind Mutai as they approached the finish line after passing through the iconic Brandenburg Gate. Maybe they had discussed together out on the road about the significance of a win for Geoffrey Mutai.”
The motivation for fans of the sport to follow the individual marathons, far outweigh the greater series’ competition – each event stands on its own. The B.A.A. Boston Marathon is an historic event. For the collective that choose to do Boston, it is about striking an item off of the proverbial bucket. The New York City Marathon has developed a great image from the days of race director Fred Lebow and excellent marketing from current race director Mary Wittenberg. New York is a mass participation event that prides itself on having the best fields, along with London, which gained its reputation for having a flat course and being a massive fund raiser for charity. These are two monster-size cities with massive marathons. Berlin’s course is fast. It is likely the fastest, right up there with London, Chicago and Rotterdam; these flat courses are perfect for time-trialing and setting world records. They have their audiences.
None of the events need the infinitesimal marketing benefits that are gained from being part of this exclusive marathon series. The thousands of participants, as well as the fans of the top end of the sport, couldn’t care less and the individual prize purses for each event should be enough on their own, to bring out the best marathon runners with or without the existence of the series. I suggest that the panel goes back to the drawing board and comes up with a series that will generate interest from the masses, the sporting fans and world-wide elite competition.