America's only certified Skyrace course. Race Beast of Big Creek on Mt. Ellinor in Hoodsport, WA on Aug 3rd, 2024.

America's only certified Skyrace course. Race Beast of Big Creek on Mt. Ellinor in Hoodsport, WA on Aug 3rd, 2024.

Speaking of supporting pro athletes, I did some research on prize money and found this article ‘More Prize Money Is Flowing Into Trail Running. What Does That Mean for the Sport?’ by Brian Metzler for Trailrunner Magazine. In it Brian mentions that Western States doesn’t pay prize money.

The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (WSER) is operated by a non-profit organization, and offering prize money goes against the mission of the race, says race director Craig Thornley.

I was under the impression that many pro runners had been angry at UTMB for not adding prize money:

UTMB had refused until 2018 to offer prize money at its races, partly because race founders Catherine and Michel Poletti have believed that increased prize money will bring more incentive for some athletes to consider doping or that agents would take too big of a cut.

Yet, in this finger pointing I had never heard anyone say anything about Western States, or Hardrock for that matter. Are we letting them off the hook because their nonprofits?

On a recent episode of Singletrack I talked to pro athlete Marcel Höche about the issue of prize money and he unsurprisingly is also for more and adequate prize money in trail races.

What surprises me in the larger conversation around prize money though is that the general notion is that most pro athletes are in favor of prize money, yet they also seem to favor races that don’t pay out prize money, like Hardrock and Western States. If prize money would be so important one would think that athletes would flock to the races that offer big prize purses, yet Western States and Hardrock remain on top of the bucket list for runners all over the globe.

For example Run Rabbit Run has one of the largest purses and is definitely a well-known race, but not even close to being in the same echelon as Western States or Hardrock:

Run Rabbit Run is one of the rare American trail races that offers a relatively large prize purse, and for a decade, it’s been the largest in the sport. Hughes earned $15,000 for winning the women’s race and split another $5,000 with Arizona trail runner Peter Mortimer (who placed 12th overall) as part of the event’s new team competition.

“That wasn’t the reason I was drawn to the race, but it was definitely pretty cool to win that much money,” Hughes said. “I’m glad I did it, because it wound up being a really great race with an amazing course on a beautiful day.”

Looking through the Aravaipa website for information on prize money this is all I could find:

Aravaipa Running today announces prize money for the return of the Crown King Scramble 50K. The first place male and female runner in the April 6, 2013 ultramarathon foot race will each receive $250.

Couldn’t find any info for Cocodona or Javelina Jundred two other sell-out races that are very popular with pro runners.

It would be interesting to have a list of races around the world that offer the most prize money. One (fast) runner could build an annual schedule around this, maybe?