Top runners plead for more money in road running

Top runners plead for more money in road running

South Africa's long-distance runners Bongmusa Mthembu and Charne Bosman voiced their concerns about the prize money in local road races.

Mthembu, a three-time Comrades Marathon champion, is disappointed with race prize money, which he believes should be at least R1 million.

In 2014, Mthembu won his first Comrades down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in 5 hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds.

Then in 2017, he stopped the clock at 5:26:35 going up from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. And in 2018 claimed his third title with a time of 5:26:35 in the down run once again. 

“It is always a challenge running in road races in South Africa. The prize money in the Comrades Marathon is not fair. It has been a few years, and the money is not appealing to the runners. Honestly, it is not working for me, look at 2017, 2018, 2019, and now 2023, and we are talking R300 000 for running 90km, imagine. Generally, South African road races do not pay the runners well,” said a concerned Mthembu.

“I am currently in a training camp in Lesotho, and it is a costly trip. I have to buy supplements and running gear. I train for the whole year, but the prize money does not match the effort and commitment I put into the race,” said Mthembu. 

Mthembu appealed to the race organizers and sponsors to consider increasing prize money to motivate the runners.

“Running is not a team sport, unlike football and other sporting codes. In football, you can make a mistake and get away with it. The teammates can cover for you, and you can still win the game. But if you make a mistake in road running, you could lose the big prize. People will say Bongmusa is complaining because of my name, but we ask that the prize goes up to motivate us as the runners,” Mthembu told the public broadcaster.

The R250 000 prize money for the Soweto Marathon has not changed in four years, while the same amount for winners of the Two Oceans ultra-marathon and Cape Town Marathon has been consistent for a few years.

Bosman, who won the 2016 Comrades in a time of 3:27:35, finished second in the Oom die dam ultra-marathon, earning R10 000.

While winner Adele Broodryk clocked 3:23:48 to win the 50km ultra-marathon and R25 000 in prize money in 2022. Bosman insisted the purse is demotivating for such a big race. 

“Imagine running for 50km and getting R25 000? The Oom die dam race is competitive, but maybe they should consider putting in more prize money. South African road races should pay more money to the runners. If there is something I could change in road running is prize money, it is not enough,” Bosman told SABC Sport.

Road races in South Africa. 

Comrade Marathon 90km R300 000 

Soweto Marathon 42.2km - R250 000 

Oom die dam ultra-marathon 50km – R25 000

Cape Town Marathon 42.2km – R 250 000 

Two Oceans ultra-marathon 56km – R250 000 

By Charles Baloyi