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A THORNY ISSUE: Put more in marathon


ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Put more in marathon

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I’M SO GLAD the runners said it and not me. Otherwise I would have been tagged as a naysayer. Again.

I am referring to the marathon runners who said they don’t plan on coming back to the Run Barbados series unless the prize money is increased substantially.

Leading the chorus is this year’s winner, Trinidadian Curtis Cox, a perennial competitor in the series.

It doesn’t take rocket science to understand what has been said and why the athletes said it. Several of these runners are professional – that’s how they make their living, so the dollars and cents factor has to make sense for them to compete in different parts of the world.

Because of their travels they know the prize scale for other big international races, so they can do the maths and make a sensible comparison with ours and the others in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Obviously, they know that they can’t expect to be paid the same amount of money athletes get for running in marathons in Boston, New York and London, to mention a few.

However, they are still wise enough to know that pocketing just $1 000 for winning our marathon is way below the threshold. It is quite demeaning and unflattering, to be frank.

It also speaks to what appears to be the contempt with which sportsmen are generally treated in Barbados. For argument sake, how can the prize money for the winner be $3 000 in 2010 and five years later be way below that benchmark?

In my own simple-minded way, I don’t think even $3 000 is adequate for people who have to run 26 miles, but it is absolutely ridiculous to have them run for less. We should always take into account the pressure marathon runners put their bodies through in training and competing, as well as their nutritional needs and such like.

Look to the future

Let’s cut the chase and agree that we can’t raise the dead as happened to Lazarus so let us simply bury the past and look to the future. As it relates specifically to the marathon, the organisers should be prepared to pay a minimum of $10 000 for the winner and a special bonus of their choosing if the course record is broken.

We need to be practical and realistic if we want to attract a quality field of local, regional and international athletes.

The bottom line has a major role to play in putting back the spring in the step of the marathon. After all, it is one of the ultimate tests for long-distance runners anywhere in the world, but the best are no longer prepared to travel to our shores for pocket change.

Again, for argument sake, if we were to try to entice top international runners for the event by offering them free accommodation plus a meagre wage for winning or placing in the top three, how many years do you think they would continue coming under those conditions after experiencing sun, sea, sand, our hospitality and night life?

It will take something more tangible to sustain the outstanding quality that is required to keep the marathon alive. The organisers will have to put in additional money in the budget to make it happen. Money can be raised through additional sponsorship, with pending partners receiving the mileage to match their dollars. I refuse to believe this can’t be attempted or done for the real crown in the jewel of the Run Barbados series.

The fact that there were only 38 runners for the rebirth of an event that went off the radar for three years is a telling statistic worth pondering. It tells us straight off that something is wrong. We are not cutting it at the current rate. We definitely need to do something revolutionary or put it back in the intensive care unit until we have the right medicine to restore it to full health.

I am still not convinced either that we need both the marathon and the half-marathon. While it is possible to have multiple events in other international constituencies, we must be mindful that we have to tailor our events to suit the size of our population.

Deficiencies

Not only that, if we have tried a particular formula which continues to have clear deficiencies, what makes it so difficult to rethink what is being done and come up with a different strategy? I hope this isn’t an ego thing because it is certainly a head thing and we have the local human resources who can be more involved in charting a new course for the marathon in particular.

Has anyone sought the services of Jerston Clarke, who trained two local winners of previous marathons? Do the names Reuben McCollin and Adelbert Browne sound familiar?

What role was offered this year to Benny Rowe’s team that has played a significant part in this event through the years?

If tourism is our business, it must be all-inclusive by utilising the best talent to get the best results. The marathon falls into this category.

Andi Thornhill is an experienced sports journalist and media consultant. Email [email protected]

 

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