Maybe it was jet lag.
Whatever it was, some error of judgement crept into the tired psyche of ultra-marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski that led her to “run” 2.5 miles of a recent race by traveling them in an automobile.
The 47-year-old Scottish runner, a doctor, was apparently tracked by GPX data by race organizers, who said that they found she has progressed through a mile of the race in one minute, 40 seconds: cue “Chariots of Fire” theme. She had initially finished third in the 50-mile route from Manchester to Liverpool on April 7.
“We can confirm that a runner has now been disqualified from the event having taken vehicle transport during part of the route,” race director Wayne Drinkwater said.
Adrian Stott, a running friend who has been in contact with Zakrzewski after the incident, told the BBC that the marathoner had arrived in Britain the night before the race after traveling for 48 hours from Australia. “The race didn’t go to plan. She said she was feeling sick and tired on the race and wanted to drop out,” he said. “She has cooperated fully with the race organizers’ investigations, giving them a full account of what happened.”
The runner told the BBC that her leg began to feel sore near the halfway point of the race and, after seeing a friend next to the course, accepted a ride in his car to the next checkpoint to tell marshals she was withdrawing.
“When I got to the checkpoint, I told them I was pulling out and that I had been in the car, and they said, ‘You will hate yourself if you stop,'” Zakrzewski told the BBC. “I agreed to carry on in a noncompetitive way. I made a massive error accepting the trophy and should have handed it back. I was tired and jet-lagged and felt sick.
“It wasn’t malicious. It was miscommunication. I would never purposefully cheat and this was not a target race, but I don’t want to make excuses.”
Zakrzewski said that she was upset to see “haters” on social media. “I’ve given so much to the running world so I am devastated this has happened,” she said.
She has been a stalwart representative through the years for Britain’s athletics community. Earlier this year, at the Taipei Ultramarathon in Taiwan, she won the 48-hour race outright, setting a world record across 255 miles.
Racing for Great Britain in the IAU World 100 kilometer Championships, she won individual silver in 2011 and bronze in 2014 and 2015. She has set a number of records including the Scottish 24-hour record, the British 200k and the Scottish 100 miles record.