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Five major marathons forming two-year series

LONDON -- Five of the top marathons have combined to create
a two-year series that will award $500,000 to the men's and women's
winners.

Organizers of the Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York
City marathons said Monday that the World Marathon Majors series is
intended to increase the profile of the 26.2-mile races.

The Olympic and world championship marathons will also count in
the series, which starts with the Boston Marathon on April 17.

"Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian,
U.S. and French Opens are to tennis," New York City Marathon race
director Mary Wittenberg said.

Paula Radcliffe, winner of the London, Chicago and New York
marathons, said the move was a "big step forward" for the sport.

"Having experienced three of the events involved, I'm convinced
that their combined expertise will help the sport immensely,"
Radcliffe said.

Runners will get points by placing among the top five in each
race: 25 points for a win, 15 points for second, 10 for third, five
for fourth and one for fifth.

Athletes would have to complete three races over two years to be
eligible, but only four results will count.

"I feel for the first time that our efforts, our contributions
have been recognized," marathon world record holder Paul Tergat
said. "We feel that in marathon always, to be able to compete
effectively, we need to have this kind of competitiveness."

The London Marathon is scheduled for April 23, the Berlin race
is Sept. 24, the Chicago Marathon is Oct. 22 and the New York City
Marathon is Nov. 5. All five marathons have contributed equally to
the first series' $1 million total purse.

This year's world championship marathons in Osaka, Japan, will
also be counted.