Yankees Sign Kara Goucher For 4 Years; Ink Alan Webb To Minor League Deal

Okay, fine, fine. The Yankees didn’t really sign Kara Goucher and Alan Webb – but you probably already knew that. However, this post is about money and running so I figured I’d include a couple of free agents (even though Goucher isn’t exactly free and Webb is allegedly retiring).

The top (non-marathon) road races in the United States offer some decent prize money. For example, the Utica Boilermaker has a prize purse of about $57,000; the World’s Best 10k (in Puerto Rico) has a prize purse around $120,000; the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler has a prize purse around $50,000; the Lilac Bloomsday 12k has a prize purse around $100,000; and the Peachtree Road Race has a prize purse a little over $100,000. This sounds like a lot of money, but keep in mind that it is divided between male and female athletes and then often split between first through tenth place (as well as other categories). To put it in perspective, Alex Rodriguez was going to get paid over $160,000 per game. Robinson Cano will get paid nearly $150,000 per game.

With this modest prize money, professional runners are left to make most of their money through endorsements. For top athletes, this is usually done through a primary sponsor.

My question is this: why aren’t runners paid more?

I know the quick reaction is that they don’t “bring in” money like other professional athletes do – but is that correct?

Studies done by the Sport Industry Research Center at Temple University show that a single marathon can bring it tens of millions of dollars to a local economy. The group has specifically studied the Miami Marathon, pointing out that the race size has quintupled over the last ten years at the same time as the price of entry doubled and the prize purse was cut by nearly 70%. The marathon, now “owned” by a publicly traded, for-profit company, seeks to attract high-end consumers, according to the VP of events.

“Our brand strives to deliver a Whole Foods, Lexus, Neiman Marcus-type experience.”

If these events are bringing in tens of millions in revenue to private companies (Life Time Fitness had over $35 million in revenue from races in 2012) and tens of millions in revenue to metropolitan areas (the Miami Marathon brought in over $54 million in revenue in 2013 through hotel stays, restaurant meals, shopping, transporation and other spending), shouldn’t the athletes representing our sport be adequately compensated? Aren’t these elite and sub-elite athletes part of the experience? I’m not saying they should make ridiculous salaries like in other major sports. However, I think it would be nice if they didn’t have to work full-time jobs in addition to running full-time. I’m not talking about Meb and Kara and Shalane and athletes who are making decent money. I’m talking about the next group of runners – the up and comers (and even some established athletes like Jason Hartmann). Like Hartman said awhile back, “I’m getting by, but there’s a certain point in your life where you want a little more stability.” Whether that stability comes from races, post-collegiate teams or corporate sponsors, I think we owe that much to the faces of our sport.