Thoughts? To me, this seems like nothing but a publicity stunt. How much time went into figuring out the 20 minute handicap?
LOS ANGELES - (November 18, 2003) - Throughout marathon history the story lines have been the same, the men's race and the women's race, and never shall they meet. Now, for the first time at the marathon distance, the 2004 Los Angeles Marathon will match the elite women against the elite men in a unique handicap format that will award the first person across the finish line a bonus of $50,000.
Under "The Challenge," the elite women begin first, approximately 20 minutes ahead of the men and say "catch us if you can". Once the time differential has passed, the elite men take off with the rest of the L.A. Marathon field and try to beat "The Challenge" posed by the elite women. The first person to break the finish tape will earn a $50,000 bonus over and above the traditional first place prizes of $25,000 and a Honda Accord EX V6 (valued at $24,300).
"Handicapping an elite field like this is unprecedented at the marathon distance," said Los Angeles Marathon President Dr. William Burke. "It promises to add a special ingredient to the marathon experience for the millions of spectators watching alongside the course, as well as compelling drama for our NBC4 and Telemundo 52 viewers."
The time differential will be based on a number of factors to insure that both genders receive a fair opportunity to compete equally in this unique format. Among the considerations will be the time difference between the men's and women's winning times in the previous 18 L.A. Marathons, and the most recent performances of the elite field in attendance.
During the race, all elite runners will receive per mile updates as to the margin separating the men and women in order to plot their strategy. This format will give spectators and viewers a new element of suspense as the runners charge to the finish line.
"I've always thought the sport needed to do something to kick-start a rooting interest in the outcome of the elite competition," said 18-year veteran of the L.A. Marathon, broadcaster Toni Reavis. His column on the Runner's World Daily Web site sparked interest in the format this summer. "It's exciting that LA has picked up that challenge. I think everyone will want to see how this race turns out."
Televised live on NBC4 and Telemundo 52, the 19th City of Los Angeles Marathon presented by Honda takes place Sunday, March 7, 2004. Marathon sponsors include American Airlines, City of Angels Medical Center, Emerald Nuts, The Gas Company, NBC4, Telemundo 52, Saucony and Sparkletts. To date, more than 350,000 runners and walkers have participated in the L.A. Marathon. For more information and to register for the race, log on to www.lamarathon.com