our everyday life

How to Become a Professional Marathon Runner

by Al Stewart, studioD

Professional marathon runners have gained a status achieved by only the sport's most elite athletes. These are highly dedicated men and women in peak physical condition who have proven themselves worthy of appearance fees for the races they enter. Those placing among the top finishers in high-profile races also earn significant cash awards, and can make even more money in endorsements. The winner of the New York City Marathon, for example, can take home as much as $130,000. Runners who consistently perform well also attract the interest of corporate sponsors, and are sought after for their expertise as trainers.

Make a full commitment to the sport of long-distance running and be prepared to devote several years to achieving your goal of becoming a professional. The vast majority of marathon runners participate in the sport for the sake of fitness and personal satisfaction. Graduating to the professional level is reserved only for the sport's most gifted athletes. They are highly disciplined about training and constantly work to improve their performance.

Join an organization such as the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races, as well as a local group such as the New York Road Runners Club. Network with other highly committed runners who can help motivate you and create greater accountability. While marathon running is typically a solo sport, there are many informal groups that run together. Building a network of athletes will help with training and encourage you to improve.

Find a trainer or coach who has expertise in sports science and nutrition, and knows how to address injuries and soreness. Look for someone willing to serve based on a share of your future earnings. Ideally, associate yourself with someone who was once a professional marathoner, has coaching experience, and with whom you have good chemistry. Approach the selection of a coach as one of the most important decisions you will make in your quest to become a professional.

Adhere to the rigorous training regimen and nutritional program developed with the assistance of your coach. This should include extensive stretching and non-running exercises. Keep careful track of your distances and times, as well as other training specifics.

Select the races in which you compete using great care. Enter events that help maximize your exposure as well as potential prize money. Once you have gained success, contact race organizers and establish your credentials. Many prominent races will pay a fee to attract elite runners. Approach upcoming races as "game day" and train accordingly to optimize your performance.

Retain representation by a sports agent who is well established in the running community. Authorize him to seek out opportunities for endorsements and appearances that can increase your income and ensure your continued success as a professional marathon runner.


  • Public image is almost as important as athletic ability. Particiapting in charity events and cooperating with the press will increase your exposure.


  • Recognize that marathon running on a professional level is usually the province of athletes with specific physical characteristics. Not everyone can do this. Seek the advice of a physician before embarking on any serious training regimen.
  • Be careful not to over-train or you might risk an injury such as shin splints.
  • Never use anabolic steroids of other illegal performance-enhancing substances.

About the Author

Al Stewart's 30-year background as a writer/editor includes staff positions at "Adweek," "Billboard," "Chain Drug Review," "Cable World," "DNR" (men's fashion), "National Floor Trends," and "Variety." A native New Yorker, he is now a writer/editor living in Los Angeles. He has a BA in political science from Wagner College.

Photo Credits

  • Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images