Except for the traffic problems they cause, you would have to say that big city marathons generally receive positive coverage in the press. This shouldn’t be too surprising. Many newspapers and other media outlets sponsor marathons and there is little question that the races spur the local economy.
Sure, you get a few nay-sayers from time to time, but marathons have lived a pretty charmed existence when it comes to public relations.
You have to wonder, though, that as the races get bigger and bigger, whether we’ll see more stories like the ones this week.
The Seattle Times reported last Monday that although the city’s marathon advertises that proceeds go to the University of Washington Medical Center’s patient housing fund, the charity received only $12,000 of the more than $1 million raised—and that amount came entirely from runners who contributed above and beyond the entry fee. Not a cent of the up to $120 marathon fee benefited charity.
The paper also revealed that marathon organizers had tripled their own compensation over the past two years. The widespread public reaction prompted a second story in the Times and a critical editorial by columnist Nicole Brodeur.
Such scrutiny is rare enough, but it was followed up on Wednesday by the news that the men’s and women’s winners in the 2006 Las Vegas Marathon only received their prize money last week.
The race organizers admitted they had “suffered a bit of a sophomore slump” in 2006, but were on firm financial footing this year, with a new corporate sponsor.
I don’t care much myself about where my registration fees go after I pay them. I’ve run for very good causes. I’ve run for causes I don’t agree with. I’ve run for no cause at all.
But if the ultimate destination of your fees is important to you, it might be well worth your time and effort to do a little research before signing up for the next big race. The press might be doing the same.