Runners Who Win Best-Known Marathons Walk Away With Big Prize Money

The highest marathon prize money comes from some of the best-known marathons in the world. Just how much do elite marathoners get for winning?

Kathryn Underwood - Author

Apr. 18 2023, Published 2:07 p.m. ET

Boston Marathon runner at the finish line
Source: Boston Marathon Facebook

The road to becoming a world-class runner, particularly a marathon runner, is anything but easy. Being the best in your athletic field pays off financially, as for some of the highest-paid athletes. Someone who wins a marathon must often train full-time. So, what is the highest marathon prize money ever to be awarded?

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Although the prize structure for marathon winners and top finishers has changed in recent years, there has usually been a significant financial reward for those who cross the finish line first in major marathons. Here's how much the winners of marathons like the Boston Marathon receive, and whether that's really enough for an elite athlete.

Boston Marathon runners in 2022
Source: Boston Marathon Facebook
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Where do runners get the highest marathon prize money?

In 2023, marathon winners might expect to win tens of thousands of dollars as the reward for their hard work and long months of training. But the highest prize purses for marathons go up to $100,000 and above. Here are the top-paying marathons in the world today.

Marathons in major cities including Tokyo, London, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and New York City offer some of the highest prize purses to the winners and top finishers in each category. The Dubai Marathon is also one of the most lucrative marathons to run, if you can win.

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Dubai Marathon runners
Source: Dubai Marathon Facebook

The Nagoya Women's Marathon pays the highest marathon prize.

In Japan, the Nagoya Women's Marathon has paid out $250,000 to the winner for the past few years. In March 2023, Ruth Chepngetich won the $250,000 purse for the second consecutive year.

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The Boston Marathon is one of the highest-paying marathons.

Currently, the Boston Marathon winner receives the second-biggest financial payout from their victory compared to other marathon winners. Amounts have changed over the years, but in 2023, the Boston Marathon winner in the open division will get $150,000. Here's how the prize money breaks down in the open division based on the place finished:

  1. $150,000
  2. $75,000
  3. $40,000
  4. $25,000
  5. $18,000
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As The New York Times explained, there are prizes for the open (elite) division as well as the masters (over age 40) division and the wheelchair division. The winner of the masters division receives $5,000, and the winner of the wheelchair division receives $25,000. Plus, bonuses are awarded for anyone who wins and sets a course record in the open and wheelchair divisions.

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Marcel Hug and Susannah Scaroni won their wheelchair divisions in the 127th Boston Marathon on April 17, 2023
Source: Twitter/@MassGovernor

In this year's 127th annual Boston Marathon, Marcel Hug of Switzerland broke his own wheelchair course record. That will net him a bonus prize of $50,000.

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Chicago Marathon runner in a green t-shirt
Source: Chicago Marathon FB

Other marathons with the highest marathon prize money.

Here are some of the highest marathon prizes besides Boston:

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Paris Marathon runners
Source: Paris Marathon Facebook
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Marathons pay bonuses for breaking course records as well.

Most of the highest-paying marathons, in addition to offering the highest prizes for first through tenth places, also offer impressive bonuses for winners who break a course record. The Boston Marathon now offers $50,000 bonuses to winners from the open and the wheelchair divisions who break the course record.

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Here are some of the other marathons and the bonuses provided:

  • Chicago Marathon: $50,000
  • New York City Marathon: $50,000
  • Tokyo Marathon: $26,500 (course record)
  • Tokyo Marathon: $44,000 (Japanese national record)
  • Tokyo Marathon: $264,000 (world record)
  • Seoul International: $200,000

How else do marathon runners make money?

Although marathon runners obviously want the prize purse for winning a major marathon, there are other ways for elite runners to earn an income throughout the year. As other athletes do, runners can earn major sponsorship money from athletic brands like Nike in exchange for promoting their footwear and other gear.

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Marcel Hug after winning NYC Marathon 2022
Source: Getty

Winning marathons or placing high in marathons might also lead to lucrative speaking engagements. In addition, brands that sponsor athletes may offer bonuses for wins.

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