Athletics: McColgan cashes in on marathon commitment

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LIZ McCOLGAN has committed herself to running the next three London marathons in a deal which, taking bonuses into account, could be worth approaching pounds 500,000 to her. The contract establishes her firmly as the highest paid British sportswoman.

The world 10,000 metres champion is likely to be paid a basic appearance fee of around pounds 250,000 over the period of the contract, which is of a kind developed in the marathon boom years of the mid- 1980s by the three United States races in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.

The Boston event is said to have offered her dollars 150,000 ( pounds 98,000) to run there instead of London next April, and was also prepared to offer her a sequence of races. To give an idea of how highly valued she is, at the peak of his career, Gelindo Bordin, then the Olympic champion, was reported to have been offered dollars 200,000 to run the 1989 London marathon. He chose Boston instead.

The bonuses on offer at next year's London event include dollars 55,000 for winning, a cumulative award of dollars 25,500 for getting under 2hr 25min, which is only two minutes faster than McColgan's curent best, dollars 50,000 for breaking the course and world best of 2:21.06, and dollars 100,000 for running under 2:20.

Given McColgan's earning power on the track, in cross-country and on the roads, where she picks up prize-money of around dollars 30,000 on a regular basis and holds the world best times at 5, 8 and 10km and world half-marathon title, she is in a different financial league to any other British woman athlete.

Even Linford Christie, the Olympic 100m champion, would have to stay busy to accumulate the sort of money this latest deal offers her; his average appearance fee in the UK has risen from pounds 10,000 to pounds 15,000 following Barcelona, although he will obviously run far more frequently than McColgan, perhaps 25 times in a summer.

McColgan's market value in the 26-mile event has been established by just two performances - victory in her first marathon last November in New York, where her time of 2:27.31 was the fastest by a woman making her debut, and victory in Tokyo last month over a field which included the Olympic champion, Valentina Yegorova.

It is the Scot's ambition to succeed Yegorova at the 1996 Olympics. The London sequence will help her build towards that; she confidently predicts it will also bring her a time inside the course and world best set by Ingrid Kristiansen in 1985.

'I firmly believe I have the ability to break Ingrid's record,' she said yesterday. 'The more logical approach would be to try for it in 1994 as the course will be new to me next year. Having said that I am going to be in very, very good shape come 18 April and I want to get a personal best out of my first run and hopefully a British record.'

An extra factor which London had in favour over Boston was home support. 'It's more personal for me to participate in this race,' she said. 'It will bring the best out of me.'

London's gain will not necessarily be Britain's loss when it comes to the World Cross-Country Championships in March. Despite the commitment of training, she maintains she is quite happy to run the championships, although she has written to the British Athletic Federation explaining that she does not want to compete in the trials.

McColgan, who has a new, short hairstyle, was looking relaxed yesterday, as well she might, having taken her longest break from training since giving birth to her daughter Eilish late in 1990. 'I haven't run a step for a month,' she said.

In the New Year, the McColgan family will move seven miles down the road from Arbroath to a new house near to the famous golf course at Carnoustie. McColgan says she plans to take up the game; buying a nice set of clubs should not prove too much of a problem.

(Photograph omitted)