Seth Wenig/AP

Half-Marathon Registrant Misses Turn, Wins Full Marathon

November 03, 2008 07:02 PM
by Anne Szustek
A North Carolina man running a half-marathon missed the turn-off at mile 13 and ended up finishing first in the full marathon, only to be disqualified from both races.
Kenyan native Nicholas Kurgat, a resident of Chapel Hill, N.C., had registered for the Rex Healthcare Half-Marathon contest at the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, N.C. A first-time half-marathoner, he did not see the sign indicating where to head into the finishing chute so, at mile 13, he decided to continue for the full course.

Ben Kurgat, a researcher at the University of North Carolina and the coach of Chapel Hill-based running club Global MBIO Club and Racing Team—and of no relation to Nicholas—told Raleigh, N.C. newspaper The News & Observer that the runner had made an “accidental discovery” of his natural talent for distance running.

Nicholas Kurgat finished the 26.2 mile-course in just under two hours, 20 minutes, a time considered elite even for experienced marathoners. But as Kurgat was not officially a competitor in the full marathon, he was disqualified from the event. And, not having properly completed the half-marathon, he was disqualified from that as well. Both disqualifications are required by the guidelines of USA Track & Field.

For many observers, any marathon blunder brings to mind the story of Rosie Ruiz, the woman who cheated her way to a fast time at the New York Marathon and subsequently “qualified” for the Boston Marathon, where she cheated her way to a victory and course record. She was later disqualified from both races, having been discovered to have taken the subway much of the way and only entering the race toward the end. In unrelated cases, Ruiz was later convicted of grand larceny and forgery and arrested for trying to sell cocaine to undercover agents.

Some sports writers look at the Ruiz story with a sense of bemusement: “Rosie Ruiz is still one of the best things to ever happen to the Boston Marathon,” writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski of the attention she brought to distance running.

Fast missteps aren’t confined to being spread for miles, however. In a 1964 NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings player Jim Marshall recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards into the end zone. Unfortunately for the Vikings, it was the wrong end zone. The 17-season captain of the “Purple People Eaters” from that point forward would be known as “Wrong Way Marshall.”

More recently, another competitor in San Francisco missed a running crown for no fault of her own—at least at first. Arien O’Connell, a fifth-grade teacher in the New York City public schools, ran the fastest time at San Francisco’s 2008 Nike Women’s Marathon, finishing in 2:55:11. Because she was not in the “elite” category however, she was not named the outright winner. After an outpouring of angry e-mails and phone calls to the race’s namesake shoe company, Nike agreed to name O’Connell “a” winner in the race.

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