The World Marathon Majors, which consist of Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, and New York, crown a champion every year based on overall placing during a two-year period. It is as unintelligible and confusing as it sounds. That being said, the WMM does dole out a half-million dollars to its two-year leader, and former world record-holder Wilson Kipsang of Kenya mathematically has a shot at winning the whole shebang when he toes the line on Sunday at the New York City Marathon.
If Kipsang, currently sitting third, wins NYC, he's $500,000 richer. If he places second or lower, he gets a handshake.
Leading the WMM standings right now is current world record-holder Dennis Kimetto. His 75 points come from wins in Tokyo ('13), Chicago ('13), and his world record win in Berlin in September. Three wins, 25 points each.
Second overall and already the prize boob of the two-year period is Tsegaye Kebede, who torpedoed his 2013-14 chances by finishing ninth in Berlin in September for zero points. The 2012-13 WMM defending champion, Kebede earned his current 55 points the hard way, competing in five marathons in the past two years, which makes his Berlin debacle that much more difficult to swallow. He will likely cry himself to sleep on a pile of money in his Ethiopian castle.
Kipsang's third place standing—51 points in the last two years—is comprised of his world record in Berlin last year—an overall win for 25 points—and a win in London this spring—another 25. But his most important result heading into New York City is his fifth-place finish in London '13. He received one (1) measly point, but that point could end up saving his ass.
The World Marathon Majors, unlike USATF, have clear tie-breaking contingencies in place. But the last thing Kipsang wants is a tie, whether he knows it or not. If Kipsang won NYC without that one measly point, tying with Kimetto:
- First, the two would have their head-to-head match-ups from the two-year window compared. They never ran head-to-head.
- Next, the athlete with the fewest number of races for his points would win. Both athletes have raced four times in the qualifying period—Kimetto dropped out of the Boston Marathon this past April. So no decision there.
- The third contingency would award the win to the athlete with the most number of wins in the qualifying period. Both would have three.
- Before allowing race directors to pick an overall winner according to how they feel (contingency five, and likely going to WR-holder Kimetto), the overall winner would be decided by fastest average time of scoring races. This would mean that Kipsang would have to run faster than 2:05:40 on Sunday to beat Kimetto's average of 2:04:31. It's a tall order, considering only one runner in history has run NYC in the 2:05s.
Should Kipsang finish any less than first, he'll at least have the consolation of the New York Road Runners' prize structure, which pays decent but nowhere in the neighborhood of a WMM title.
But really, World Marathon Majors, can we not come up with a better way to spend $500K? You know, in a way that will actually align with your stated goal to "advance the sport, raise awareness of its elite athletes, and increase of the level of interest in elite racing among running enthusiasts"?
h/t David Monti, Photo: AP Images