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Marathon Series to Begin in Boston

Today's race is the first in a competition that links five major races with a $1-million purse.

April 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

BOSTON — Determining the year's best marathoner cannot be done in a day, even if today the sport will crown the Boston Marathon champion.

At least that's the thought that spurred the creation of World Marathon Majors series, which will use the results of Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York races over an 18-month period to award points and $1 million in prize money to crown the world's top man and woman at the 26.2-mile distance.

"The whole point is to be the best runner in the world," 2004 Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi said as he prepared to make his Boston Marathon debut today.

The five races looked to U.S. mainstream sports for a system that would reward athletes for long-term consistency rather than one day of greatness.

"We feel like we're at a different level, and we felt we have an obligation to bring the sport into the future," Guy Morse, Boston Marathon director, said of the five races that joined hands and marketing opportunities.

In coming up with a point system, organizers of the marathons looked to the grand slams and Triple Crowns in other sports. Of special interest was NASCAR's Chase for the Championship, which made a mini-circuit out of a yearlong season.

"Our attention ebbs and tides," Chicago executive race director Carey Pinkowski said. "We looked to the mainstream sports and how they stay in front of the audience."

But while horses can run three times in five weeks and cars every weekend, humans usually run no more than two marathons a year -- one in the spring and one in the fall.

"Everything is influenced by the fact that the athletes can't -- and we don't want to encourage them to -- run more," Morse said.

Organizers came up with a two-year cycle, overlapping so that a bonus will be awarded each fall, starting in 2007. Runners get 25 points for winning a race, decreasing to 15, 10, five and one point for fifth place.

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