The marathon, any marathon is a very long race to run. With that in mind, Fred Lebow, the president of the New York Road Runners Club, installed what he calls "the world's longest outdoor urinal (200 feet)" at the starting line of the race scheduled to begin at 10:30 this morning.
With individual facilities costing $50 each, "this is really a savings," said marathon coordinator Allan Steinfeld.
Such are the hidden, and not so hidden, costs of organizing the world's biggest marathon. More than 14,000 runners -- including last year's winners Bill Rodgers of Boston and Grete Waitz of Oslo -- will attempt to run the 26-mile 385-yard course that winds its way through all of the city's five boroughs.
"Anything times 14,000 is a lot of money," said Patsy Warner, director of special events at Manufacturers Hanover bank, one of the race's largest sponsors. "It's an expensive event, but it is well worth it."
The first New York City Marathon in 1970 attracted 126 runners and cost, Lebow said, "a couple of thousand of my own money."
According to Warner and Steinfeld, the best estimate of the cost of this year's race is $500,000. That does not include more than$1 million in donated good and services, including 20,000 Columbo yogurts, and overtime pay for more than 1,000 of New York's finest.According to Warner, New York Telephone, which is providing the computer technology for recording the race results, leads all sponsors in donated services.
Most of the income has been generated through sponsorship from Manufacturers Hanover, Perrier, the Runner magazine, New York Telephone, the Rudin Family and Inter City Broadcasting.
Peter Roth treasurer of the New York Road Runners Club, said the minimum contribution the club accepted this year from corporate sponsors was $50,000. "For a major sponsor, we would ask $100,000," he said.
Manufacturers Hanover's Warner said,"probably we give more up front cash than anyone else, $125,000, plus services."
Another $70,000 was generated through entry fees ( $5 per runner), and Marathon Entertainment, an independent television production company, which is broadcasting the race live to 50 stations nationwide, guaranteed the Road Runners a minimum of $15,000 for the television rights. The race can be seen in Washington on WTTG-TV-5, 11 a.m.
"People come up to me and say, how can you spend that kind of money on a race?" said Warner, "and I say, 'Well, just think about it.'"
Two hundred thousand paper cups at 7 cents apiece is $14,000.
Seventeen thousand T-shirts at $1.80 each is $30,600.
Add another $20,000 for computers, and $800 for safety pins.
A more substantial expense is the cost of importing world class runners. Peter Roth estimates that the Road Runners spent $80,000 to bring in about 65 runners.
Expenses are not a runner's favorite topic of conversation. Amateur Athletic Union regulations (this is an AAU-sanctioned event) prohibit runners from receiving anything more than hotel and travel money and a per diem ( $20) from the race organizers.
It is, of course one of the sport's worst-kept secrets that runners receive money in the thousands -- under the table (before open tennis, they called it "shamateurism").
"In terms of expenses, there are certain limits allowed and that's it," said Rodgers. "until things change that's all I can say."
Rodgers, 31, the three-time defending champion and American record holder (2:09.27, the fourth fastest time ever), had considered skipping the race this year.
"The people who come here are the people who are treated well by the Road Runners Club, myself, Frank Shorter, 'grete Waitz," Rodgers said.
He believes that Fred Lebow has "miscalculated with the runners he has brought in," paying for some because of their "past names" while "shutting the door" on others (like his teammate Randy Thomas) whose names are not yet established.
"You can't bring in Lasse Viren (from Finland) and have him do a 2:19 and drop out. The same is true for Frank Shorter (1972 Olympic Gold medalist). He's got to come through with more than he has."
Garry Bjorklund, who challenged Rodgers last year, and is not running this year, is among those who believe that "this will be Bill's toughest challenge. yShorter's in good shape and from what 'i hear he's hungry."
Running has become very big, very fast. No doubt about it: the sport is having its growing pains.
There are interfamily squabbles. For example, this week the New York Road Runners Club sued its "parent" organization, the Road Runners Club of America, because it denied its sanction to the race.
And there is awkwardness. At a press conference Thursday, a reporter from a New York paper asked Grete Waitz, "Have you ever run a marathon before?" a
Waitz, 26, who set a world record (2:32:30) here last year in the first marathon she ever ran (this will be the second) replied politely, "yes, here last year."
Waitz, like Rodgers, is the odds on favorite. Poeple are saying she wants to break 2:30. Waitz, who does not consider herself a marathoner, says "everyone seems to know more about me than me. If I run a 2:35, I'll be pleased."