RRW: In About Face, Competitor Group Reinstates Elite Athlete Support Program

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
January 23, 2014

Late yesterday, Competitor Group Inc. (CGI) announced a new support program for elite athletes four months after abruptly halting their previous program.  Officials said through a press release that the new program included a “7-figure investment in 2014” plus special support for American athletes who want to qualify for the 2016 USA Olympic Marathon Trials.

“We are proud to announce a comprehensive elite athlete program across our 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, designed to support the world’s best runners,” explained Tracy Sundlun, CGI’s senior vice president of events through a news release.  “Fast running has always been a part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon since its inception in 1998.”

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Last September, just days ahead of their Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon, CGI abruptly cancelled their previously robust elite athletes program, dismissed their elite athletes coordinator, Matt Turnbull, and announced that they would no longer pay athlete appearance fees (CGI events still paid prize money, but at lower levels than in previous years).  The move subjected the San Diego-based company to widespread criticism in the running community and sparked a debate on the value of elite athletes to running events.

“Competitor Group isn’t to blame for the demise of elite racing (other than for the abrupt nature of the current decision), it is only the cold-eyed messenger,” wrote long-time commentator Toni Reavis on his blog.

The new program has three key elements:

. Guaranteed prize money for top finishers at every Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series event in North America including featured world-class events at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego (June), Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia (September), Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon (September) and the Carlsbad 5000 (April).

. Restoration of the company’s Half-Marathon Grand Prix, including the return of a U.S. Open Division that will feature a $47,000 prize purse in conjunction with the year-long age-group competition at each of CGI’s 29 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathons and the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon.

. A new “Chasing Down the Dream” program, which will provide travel assistance and performance-based prize money focused on achieving the U.S. Olympic Trials Qualifying Standard at 4 events (2 each for men & women).

“We believe our participants and general fans of the sport will like the features of the program, which include a special emphasis to create opportunities for America’s best men and women as they strive to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials,” Sundlun concluded.