April is Marathon Month with Rotterdam, Paris, Boston and London all being held within a few weeks of each other. As any follower of the world marathon scene will know, Rotterdam has continued to put out amazing fields of top-caliber athletes and the times they are running are phenomenal. This year we saw the 5th, 7th, 12th, and 16th fastest performances EVER all run at Rotterdam.
My latest article at Runner's Tribe looks at the World Marathon Majors and argues that Rotterdam is a better fit than Berlin as the 5th race in that contest (along with London, Chicago, Boston and New York City). Not that it will ever happen, as the World Marathon Majors were established by the five marathons and not an independent body, but still.
Here's a snippet of the article.
Since the World Marathon Majors were announced in 2006, I've both loved the idea and had misgivings about the actual process. I think it's great that athletes are encouraged to compete in multiple races, and that the "best" marathoner in the world gets a prize. But it's not really getting the job done in my opinion.
The purpose, as the WMM website states, is to "advance the sport, raise awareness of its athletes and increase the level of interest in elite racing among running enthusiasts." That's a great goal, and as a self-professed running enthusiast, I'd love if it were increasing my level of interest and not just my level of head-shaking.
Here's how the WMM works. Athletes compete in any of five major marathons--Boston, London, Chicago, Berlin, and New York City. (In the case of a championship year, the IAAF World Championships Marathon and the Olympic Marathon are included.) The top five athletes in each race are awarded points based on their finishes: 25 for 1st, 15 for 2nd, 10 for 3rd, 5 for 4th, and 1 for 5th. The athlete with the most points over a rolling two year period--2008-2009 and 2009-2010 are both separate competitions--wins the prize: US$500,000 each to the top male and female.
There's a lot of potential here. You're going to have to run and win at least one marathon, and probably two, over two years if you're going to win. You're probably also going to have to place in another. So you've got to show up and race. It's also a huge payday for any distance runner, so it should be motivating (for the top few marathoners in the world). And most importantly, it gives TV commentators an extra 3 minutes of material to discuss during the races, which accounts for about half of the interesting information we'll get to hear watching any particular race.
But there are problems with the system and they need fixing...
To read what needs to change with the structure of the WMM, why Berlin is like a shoot-first point guard on a basketball team, and why Rotterdam should be considered for inclusion, click here.