‘I saw it happening but I wasn’t going to shout’: Runner wins marathon after frontrunners took wrong turn

One of the disqualified frontrunners had been fundraising for the family he supports

Helen Elfer
Tuesday 28 September 2021 21:43
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Two marathon frontrunners lost out on winning their race when a volunteer mistakenly led them off the route.

Elijah Mwangangi Saolo and Luke Kibet were leading the Quad Cities Marathon in Moline, Illinois, by a comfortable margin on Sunday, but instead of following the official path, Mr Saolo and Mr Kibet followed a marathon volunteer off the route, meaning the two Kenyans were automatically disqualified.

Tyler Pence, a sports coach at the University of Illinois saw their mistake and made sure to stick to the correct path, leading him to becoming the first US runner since 2001 to win the race. He also won the $3,000 prize money.

“It was pretty obvious where to go out there so I don’t know what went on,’’ Mr Pence, 28, told the Quad-City Times. “I was about 20 seconds back so I kind of saw it happening but I’m not going to shout. It’s not my job.’’

Mr Pence finished the 26.2-mile run in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 6 seconds, which was his own personal best, as well as the third-fastest time in the race’s history.

Mr Saolo was close to beating his own record before taking the wrong turn. He is the grandson of Joseph Nzau, a prominent Kenyan runner who won the Quad-City Times Bix 7 race twice in the 1980s and he had been training with his grandfather for this marathon.

Mr Saolo, who was fundraising for his family, supports them by running, and has lost a lot of income after many races were canceled due to Covid, according to his Go Fund Me page. If he had come first he would have won $3,000.

Although the volunteer made a mistake, race director Joe Moreno told the Quad-City Times that the route was properly marked. “At that intersection where that incident happened, the course was well-marked,’’ he said. “The signage is well-displayed. The volunteers are there. And the fourth element is those elite runners have a meeting the day before to get familiar with the course.’’

When Mr Saolo and MrKibet got to the finish line, Mr Moreno told them they had been automatically disqualified for taking an unofficial route. The volunteer who accidentally led them the wrong way stood near by, close to crying, reports the Washington Post.

Mr Moreno said: “I don’t want this to be a total loss for them so I think there is going to be some compensation for them,’’ he said. “That shows that we are taking some responsibility ourselves. As race director, I feel somewhat responsible.”

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