American runners will pretty much have their way in the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday, a rarity for long distance road races.

The reason is that top-flight foreign runners are passing up the race, which cannot compete in size or prestige to the Boston or New York City marathons.But the Pittsburgh race will serve as the 1998 national men's marathon championship. As a result, all of the prize money is designated for American runners only.

In 2000, the Pittsburgh race will double as the men's U.S. Olympic trials.

American runners, whose times have slipped far behind those of the top international runners, now largely avoid races in which most of the prize money will go to the Kenyan, Mexican or Ethiopian runners. Instead, they concentrate on races such as Pittsburgh.

But while Pittsburgh won't have an international flavor, it will have more of the top, younger American distance runners than most races. A year ago, Joe Sarver, the marathon's elite runner coordinator, urged race director Larry Grollman to bring in some of the better younger runners and treat them as stars.

The decision paid off last year as David Scudamore made his marathon debut by not only competing but winning in Pittsburgh.

Some younger runners who could make the race competitive are Brandon Rhoads, a three-time distance-running All-American at Brigham Young University who ran his first marathon only last year; Scott Larson, who ran his first marathon seven months ago after turning to running out of boredom; and Dan Mayer, who has run only two marathons but is viewed as an up-and-coming runner.

Rhoads, 26, is from Provo, Utah; Larson, 28, is from Boulder, Colo.; and Mayer, 26, is from Naperville, Ill.

One runner who could do what Scudamore did last year is Jeff Campbell, 26, of Alamosa, Colo., who will be making his marathon debut. Three of his running partners also are entered, including fourth seed Marco Ochoa and Peter DeLaCerta, who has been designated to set the early pace.

Of all the runners entered, Layton's Ed Eyestone has the best career marathon time at 2:10:59.