Marathon prize money lures deep field of runners
The elite runners slowly filed into a meeting room at the Wyndham Hotel downtown late Saturday afternoon for the technical meeting with organizers in advance of Sunday's Pittsburgh Marathon and Half-Marathon.
There were plenty of details to go over, including meeting time, the weather report, what type of security was going to be present, where the elite runners' fluid stations would be located on the course and — an important detail that has tripped up more than one runner in recent years — where the full 26.2-mile marathon course splits from the 13.1-mile half-marathon course.
As the Pittsburgh Marathon continues to grow in reputation and in total prize purse, the race is beginning to draw more talented elite runners, race director Patrice Matamoros said.
“We're getting more 2:11 (marathon runners) and a couple of 1:01 (half-marathon runners), which we never would have attracted in year one or two or three,” she said. “The way we structured the prize package this year definitely impacted what we're getting and I can see now the beginning of depth coming in. I think it really helps elevate the race a lot.”
The top seven finishers in both the marathon and the half-marathon, male and female, will receive awards this year compared to the top five in past years. The half-marathon prize money has also increased from $5,000 for first place last year to $6,500 in 2013 with additional increases for the remaining finishers.
Bill Staab, longtime president of the New York City-based West Side Runners Club, has been bringing athletes to Pittsburgh since the marathon's return in 2009. Twenty of his runners, many of them natives of Ethiopia, will compete in the marathon and half-marathon.
“It's a fantastic race,” he said. “The course is attractive for good times and the reception here is lovely. They added additional prize money and went deeper and this attracts more and more people.”
Jordan Chipangama, a native of Zambia who resides in Flagstaff, Ariz., will run in the full marathon.
“I've never been here but I had the chance to go on a course tour (on Saturday),” said Chipangama, whose personal record is 2:18:51. “It's a challenging course, but I think it will be fun. I feel good right now but the marathon is different. You never know what's going to happen.”
Chipangama said his strategy was going to be to conserve as much energy as possible then attack on the hills heading into Oakland and finish strong. He said he wasn't familiar with any of his competition.
“They might be a surprise, or I might be their surprise,” he said.