Las Vegas Marathon Pays Last Year's Winners Ahead Of 2007 Race

Just weeks before the 2007 Las Vegas Marathon, organizers said they paid out top prizes to last year's winners.

On Nov. 21, reigning men's champion Joseph Kahugu received his $15,000 first-place prize, plus his $50,000 bonus for winning the event's male-female challenge.

Fellow Kenyan Jemima Jelagat received her $15,000 first-place money as the women's winner in last December's race.

Shawn Hellebuyck, the agent for Jelagat, said the process dragged out much longer than she could have imagined.

"Forty-five days is a good guesstimate, and if there's drug-testing at the event, then perhaps two months," said Hellebuyck.

"And there was no drug testing last year."

Kahugu's agent, Derek Froude, was preparing for a trip to Japan and was unavailable for comment.

However, Kahugu is expected back to defend his title Sunday.

Race president Bill Burke attributed the delay in payment to the rapid expansion of the event.

Chicago-based Devine Sports took over the marathon in 2005, getting the course to include the Strip in a costly makeover for the event.

The race drew about 11,000 participants in 2005 and grew to 16,000 last year with the addition of a half-marathon.

"We had growing pains," Burke said. "It's a growing business. Last year, we had no sponsors. This year, we have significant sponsors, so we're in much better shape."

Devine Sports had a similar issue earlier this year in paying winners of the February 2006 Los Angeles Marathon.

Burke said race officials kept in touch with Kahugu and Jelagat during the past 50 weeks.

"When we're late, we know we're late, but we still stay in touch with people," he said. "We make sure they get paid. No one ever doesn't get paid."

Hellebuyck said he had to dip into his own pocket to keep his client afloat.

Jelagat was kept from competing through much of 2007 by medical issues, making access to her 2006 Las Vegas winnings more vital.

"It's not my money to be disappointed about. But my client, she's from a third-world country. You've won, so in a way you've earned it. I actually had to help her out a bit," Hellebuyck said.

Burke said the race is now on firmer financial ground, with - a major online shoe and apparel retailer based in Henderson - as the title sponsor.

Burke said he expects no problems taking care of Sunday's money winners in a more timely fashion.

"I would say that everybody gets paid within 90 days, which is the normal time for a marathon," he said.

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