COMMENT: Athletics SA need to regulate road running prize money

Runners during a road race

File. What disturbs Independent Media’s Matshelane Mamabolo the most is the pittance that’s being offered as prize money at most local races. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 18, 2024


Though it is generally acknowledged that running is a “poor man’s sport”, my experience of it lately has been to the contrary.

Of course it is arguably the most accessible sport there is, for all you need is a pair of shoes and you hit the road.

That though is a very simplistic way of looking at it. For starters, that view assumes you are just going to jog in your neighbourhood, but runners want to race.

They want to compete in order to see how they are progressing. And that comes at a pretty high cost, with race registration fees pretty steep lately.

High travel costs

Add to that the travel costs to those races, most of which take place in towns and big cities far away from the poor man’s home and you begin to realise the folly of terming it the most accessible sport.

What disturbs me the most about it though is the pittance that’s being offered as prize money at most local races.

It actually irks me that the so-called elites have continued to race for such because surely, the kind of money that is being made by most of the races - from the hefty registrations as well as the sponsorships - should contribute to improved prize monies.

I remember being bitterly disappointed a few years ago when none of the Comrades Marathon elites backed former champion Gift Kelehe when he decided not to run in protest against the organisers’ having reduced the prize money.

What a wasted opportunity!

I am of the opinion that it is high time Athletics South Africa (ASA), as the custodians of the sport in the land, came up with ways to ensure that corporates that are involved in the sport give back to it somehow.

And I was particularly impressed to see that ABSA, who run the particularly popular ABSA 10km RUN YOUR CITY Series, have decided to not only take from the running communities but to give back to its development.

For the season-opening race in Gqeberha on April 7, they will have a Schools Challenge that they hope will spark exciting competition amongst the region’s top athletics schools.

Team element

Michael Meyer, Managing Director of Stillwater Sports and Founder of the Series, says the Challenge will add an exciting team element to what is usually an individual sport.

“Our goal is to inspire more junior athletes to participate in the 10km, while promoting team camaraderie and igniting friendly rivalries among schools.”

The Challenge will be open to athletes of 14 to 19 years of age, both boys and girls.

Such an event will no doubt contribute in attracting youngsters to running and helping groom stars of the future.

And with a pair of running shoes part of the prizes for the winning school, this will help alleviate the expensive nature of a sport that is supposedly a “poor man’s sport”.


IOL Sport

* The views expressed are not necessarily the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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