The elite running community was roiled by the news in late August that a major race organizer no longer would pay appearance fees to top athletes at its races. The Twin Cities Marathon never has paid such fees, but executive director Virginia Brophy Achman said Friday that her organization is committed to continuing its other methods of financial support.
Competitor Group Inc., which runs more than 80 races, has ended appearance payments made to elite athletes to compete in its events around the world. Brophy Achman said that Twin Cities in Motion, which operates the Twin Cities Marathon and other area races, does not pay appearance fees because it is a nonprofit with a limited budget. But the organization gives financial support to elite athletes through its sponsorship of groups such as Team USA Minnesota, the Minnesota Elite Athlete Development Program and the USA Distance Project.
“If I had a lot of money, we would pay [appearance fees], because it does help athletes earn a living,’’ Brophy Achman said. “We take that role and that mission very seriously. It’s important to have strong, positive role models.’’
The Twin Cities Marathon will pay $145,000 in prize money Sunday to the top 10 Americans in the men’s and women’s divisions, with $25,000 each to the winners of the men’s and women’s U.S. marathon titles. It also offers a $25,000 bonus for a course record and additional money to top finishers in other categories, including the masters, wheelchair and masters age-group divisions.
Brophy Achman said other race organizers similar to Twin Cities in Motion also are committed to financial support of elite athletes.
“Our peers in Houston, Pittsburgh, the Atlanta Track Club, the New York Road Runners, Boston, Chicago, we’re all still [financially supporting athletes],” she said. “It’s important.’’
As she trained toward the Twin Cities Marathon, Michelle Lilienthal won last month’s City of Lakes 25-kilometer race in Minneapolis. Her training continues to go well, she said Friday, fueling her confidence for one of her favorite races.
Lilienthal, 31, lives in Minneapolis and has a personal-best time in the marathon of 2 hours, 35 minutes, 51 seconds. She finished fourth in the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon and is seeded ninth in the women’s elite field.
“Winning here, I could maybe retire on Sunday if I did that,’’ she said. “I mean, I won’t, but winning on your home course would be a pretty unbelievable thing.’’