LA Marathon will bring back its gender challenge in 2022

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved – Used with permission.

(10-Feb) — Organizers of the 2022 Los Angeles Marathon presented by ASICS announced yesterday that they had decided to revive their gender challenge for the event’s elite race.  The 37th annual edition of the race, which was never cancelled during the pandemic, moves back to its traditional date of the third Sunday in March after being held in November last year.

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The gender challenge, called the Quincy Cass Associates Marathon Challenge, will mimic what the race did in the 2004 to 2014 editions.  Based on the quality of the field, a small group of elite women will start the race early and the elite men will give chase and try to make up the gap.  The first athlete, male of female, to cross the finish line will receive a special bonus in addition to the regular prize money.  During the 11 years of the gender challenge, woman prevailed seven times.

“We’re thrilled to help bring back this exciting element to the Los Angeles Marathon,” said Quincy Cass Associates CEO Mark Minichiello through a statement. “It highlights the talented runners of both the women’s and men’s fields pursuing their high-performance goals, but what makes it really exciting is that anyone can win it.”

The challenge bonus of $10,000 is modest by historical standards. In the first edition of the race to use the gender challenge, 2004, the women were given a 20 minute, 30 second head start. Forty-nine year-old Tatiana Pozdnyakova of Ukraine ran 2:30:17 to easily defeat the men’s champion, David Kirui of Kenya, who ran 2:13:41.  Pozdnyakova won the gender battle bonus of $50,000, $29,000 in prize money and time bonuses, and a brand new Honda automobile.  It was the biggest road racing payday of her career.

“I am very excited about it,” Pozdnyakova told the Los Angeles Times after the race. “I am very happy because before Los Angeles, I don’t have any races. I am working only for Los Angeles Marathon, and I have a very, very high preparation before this marathon. I never have like this preparation in all my life.”

John Korir of Kenya after winning the 2021 Los Angeles Marathon Presented by ASICS (photo by @RWBmultimedia, used with permission)

The bonus grew to $75,000 in 2005, and the overall champion was Kenya’s Mark Saina who won a total of $110,000 in prize money and bonuses.  In 2006, after the race signed a new sponsor Banco Popular, the bonus was raised further to $100,000.  Russia’s Lidiya Grigoryeva (who won the 2007 Boston Marathon and was later banned for doping) made $155,000 in prize money and bonuses after winning that year in a course record 2:25:10.

Organizers maintained the $100,000 bonus through 2013 before reducing it to $50,000 in 2014, and discontinuing it in 2015 when the race hosted the USATF Marathon Championships in advance of the 2016 USA Olympic Trials which were also held in Los Angeles on a different course.  Several notable athletes won the bonus over the years, including Kenyan Olympians Wesley Korir (2009) and Edna Kiplagat (2010).

The sponsor of the 2022 bonus, Quincy Cass Associates, is the oldest independent financial firm in Los Angeles, founded in 1922.  They are supporting the bonus this year to mark their 100th anniversary of serving the city of Los Angeles.

“To mark our 100th anniversary in Los Angeles we wanted to give back to the community that has given Quincy Cass Associates so much through the years,” CEO Minichiello said.  “I have a deep fondness for the Los Angeles Marathon, and hope the Quincy Cass Associates Marathon Challenge will be the beginning of a new legacy of excitement for runners and fans of the Los Angeles Marathon.”

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