Only a select few track runners make the big bucks. Usain Bolt, the Jamaican super sprinter who has been dubbed "the fastest man in the world," earned $20.3 million in 2012. Only $300,000 of that came from running prizes, though. The remaining $20 million came from endorsements. About 50 percent of track athletes, including runners, who rank in the top 10 in the United States in their event make less than $15,000 annually from their sport, reports the Track and Field Athletes Association. Another 20 percent of athletes in the top 10 in their sport in the U.S. earn more than $50,000 annually. If you don't fall into the top 10, your prospects of earning any substantial money by racing are slim.
The 2013 Track and Field Elite Athlete Survey noted that, out of 312 respondents, 150 noted their total yearly prize earnings as less than $5,000. Only 15 respondents reported earning more than $100,000 from racing. In addition to prize money, endorsements and work, track runners can earn money from speaking engagements and pacing other runners at big competitions. For most athletes, these appearances won't add up to a substantial income, though. About half of track athletes, including runners, had a major shoe contract in 2012 to 2013. These contracts don't usually offer enough to live on, though; only a small fraction of those shoe contracts come in at $80,000 to $150,000.