2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials Prize Money Breakdown

By Kyle Merber

January 31, 2024

If any qualified athletes were on the fence about heading to Orlando for the US Olympic Marathon Trials, then perhaps the promise of a $600,000 prize purse was enough of an incentive to get them to declare. Although, when you consider that total is divided between the two fields, and then again among the top 10 finishers, it’s sort of like winning the lottery – the sticker price isn’t what is getting deposited into your bank account. (Don’t do the math to figure out agent cuts and taxes, trust me!)

Even then, the likes of Noah Lyles and other track-only athletes have caught a glimpse into the amount of money that is up for grabs on the roads and it has them considering an event switch. After all, winning your event at the US Outdoor Championships last year paid a whopping $8,000 – which is good, because I don’t get out of bed for less than seven.

Noah Lyles TwitterNoah Lyles Twitter

@LylesNoah on Twitter

It’s important to note that USATF is not putting up any of this money. It’s from the local organizing committee as part of their deal for hosting.

But a major difference is that the Marathon Trials is just one event and the money does not have to be split across 23 disciplines. While I am all for getting rid of half of those, until the sport does, then the prize money for a national championship on the track will never get close to what it’ll be on the roads.

In both cases, the athletes who are winning on the roads are likely making close to or more than that first-place prize money anyway from their contract bonuses. That’s not even considering the potential “rollover,” which is when an athlete’s highest bonus gets rolled into your base salary the following calendar year.

What’s not seen here is the opportunity cost of competing in the Trials but finishing outside the money or off the podium! Top-tier American marathoners who race twice a year may receive six-figure appearance fees for doing so. Fortunately, there aren’t many alternative options in February they had to turn down. But because there is such a low supply of potential races, athletes can demand a lot for their presence. Compare this to the track… on any given weekend during the summer there are 15+ “professional” meets somewhere in the world.

If there is ever going to be similar prize money on the track then there needs to be fewer events and fewer meets – until then, athletes are a common commodity. Though based on the prize money from the 1996 Trials, even the marathoners aren’t appreciating in value.

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Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.