The only payoff for the more than 400 runners expected for Sunday's 38th Western Hemisphere Marathon will be in finishing the race. The only bonuses will be the trophies and medallions that go to the top finishers--unless you count the lunch and T-shirt that will be given to everyone who registers.
Even though the Culver City race is said to be the nation's second-oldest (in terms of consecutive runnings), Syd Kronenthal, director of the city's human services department and one of the race founders, said it will remain strictly for amateurs. No cash awards or appearance fees will be given to attract name runners.
Said Kronenthal, "We're not out to compete with the Boston, the New York City and the Chicago marathons. This race belongs to the city and people of Culver City, and the status of this race was purely nonprofessional when they took it on."
Kronenthal first took it on in 1948 along with Paul H. Helms, founder of the Helms Hall of Athletics, and the hall's director, Bill Schroeder. He said the Western Hemisphere, Boston and Yonkers marathons for years were the qualifying runs for U.S. Olympic marathoners. Kronenthal was national chairman of long-distance running for the Amateur Athletic Union from 1957 to 1959 and headed the AAU's Southern Pacific Division for nearly 20 years.
The Culver race used to attract top runners of the past such as Billy Mills, gold medalist at 10,000 meters for the U.S. in the 1964 Olympics, and Bobby Cons, a former Olympian and a four-time winner of the Western Hemisphere. But Kronenthal said it would not be fair to ask Culver taxpayers to foot the bill in order to lure today's big names.
"We're trying to perpetuate one of the pioneer long-distance running events in this country," he said. "If we had to bastardize the race in order to continue its tradition, it wouldn't be worth it."
He said the Western Hemisphere also pioneered with the first sanctioned experimental half-marathon (13.1 miles) for women in 1967. "We had to put a lot of pressure on the AAU to get the official sanctioning. Then they would only sanction a half-marathon because the Souther Pacific Assn. of The Athletic Conference felt women couldn't run a full 26 miles."
But they ran a full marathon in Culver City in 1971, and it was won by Cheryl Bridges in 2:49.40. Jackie Hansen set the course record of 2:43:55 for the full course in 1974. The men's record of 2:15:21 was established by Bill Scobey in 1971. Steve Flynn has won the last two men's races, and Pauline Brown of New Zealand was the women's winner last year.
The race will start at 8 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building, 4117 Overland Ave. The registration fee on race day is $12.
No matter who wins Saturday's UCLA-USC football game (at 1:30 p.m. at the Coliseum) fans of either team can buy a Bruin or Trojan T-shirt that says, "We own L.A."
One shirt has a design that shows the Bruin mascot holding a limp Tommy Trojan in its paw; the other has Tommy Trojan dangling a Bruin at the end of his sword.
Proceeds from sales will go to Troy Camp, a summer camp for underprivileged children. Shirts may be ordered by phoning (213) 743-6283.