Posted by: Joe English | May 23, 2008

Racing: Wrong turn costs marathon runner victory

In an all too familiar story, marathon runner Chris Koch missed a turn and got off course in the Brookings (South Dakota) Marathon. Unfortunately for Koch, he was leading at the time and didn’t realize the mistake until he rejoined the course a bit further along the route. The mistake — that of the race organizers for not marking the corner — cost him his victory.

An article at gives the whole story, including an apologetic statement from the race’s director saying: “Unfortunately, two spots were not covered and that resulted in a small number of runners getting off course. We have great volunteers, and it wasn’t their fault; the blame’s on me.”

For his part, Koch said that he thought that he probably could have backtracked, run the mile or so that he missed, and still won the race. With a finishing time of 2:45:30 (6:37 pace for 25.0 miles), he had time to spare. The next finisher, Gregg Uecker — who was eventually crowned champion — finished in 2:57:05. That’s enough of a gap that Koch could have run the extra mile at his pace and still won the race by a few minutes.

Koch seemed pretty calm about the whole thing. He was quoted in the PostBulletin as saying, “It sucks, but what can I do?”

I had this situation come up in my own racing history when I missed a turn on the bike course of a triathlon. But in that race, as is more typical, my competition overtook me while I was getting back on course. I still lost the race due to the error, but at least I didn’t think I had won the race when I came across the line. That — as Koch said — would “suck”.

It’s a shame that Koch had his victory taken from him in his debut marathon, especially because he was trying to qualify for Boston and now has no official time. But I bet, as a 2:50ish runner, he’s going to have no problem qualifying in his next race.

Read the complete article in the PostBulletin, by clicking here.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News


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