This Sunday featured the running of the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. While this year’s edition was marked by tragedy of two deaths, it was, by and large, another successful race. There were over 10,000 finishers in the marathon alone to go along with over 11,000 finishers in the half marathon and Rothman Institute 8K.
The race is a fantastic tour through the city. Starting off on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with many runners lining up by the Art Museum, you pass the Parkway museums, turn at Love Park, run by City Hall, go through Chinatown and by the Constitution Center, head south on Columbus Boulevard past Penn’s Landing including the Moshulu and U.S.S. Olympia, come back up South Philadelphia, head west on South Street and past Jim’s Steaks, go north back towards Old City, turn by the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, pass the throngs in Center City, take a trip through Penn and Drexel, go past the Philadelphia Zoo, climb up Fairmount Park near the Please Touch Museum, head back towards Center City on West River Drive, go back west on Kelly Drive by the river into Manayunk, and head back to finish on the Parkway. That’s a pretty good sampling of the city. It’s fast and relatively flat race, and, at least today, the weather definitely cooperated.
So what’s missing? Well, despite its great elements, the Philadelphia Marathon is not considered a “major” marathon or a big draw for elite athletes (such as the ones you see winning the Boston, Chicago, New York City and Olympics marathons). As many veteran marathoners of other cities know, the marathon also has a relatively low scale expo and meager post-race food and refreshments (think bananas, chicken stock soup and oranges). The primary reason, of course, is that there are not significant sponsors, including no title sponsor, of the race. The lack of sponsorship also affects the prize money, which draws the big name runners. Here’s a comparison of prize money for men and women from several marathons:
- New York City – $130,000 for first
- Boston – $150,000 for first, $800,000 total prize money
- Chicago – $75,000 for first, $450,000 total prize money
- Baltimore – $23,000 for first, $14,000 for second
- Philadelphia – $3,500 for first, $19,500 total prize money
Compared to other marathons, that’s not a lot of incentive for elite athletes. Yes, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC does not offer prize money, but that race has its own special draws.
The point is that the race offers a lot of great things. Race organizers should do a better job presenting its features to potential sponsors (ahem, Comcast), who could then draw elite runners and make the race even better.