Ultramarathon winner stripped of title for running too far

Tom Fairbrother in the Race to the Stones.
Tom Fairbrother in the Race to the Stones. Photo credit: Tom Fairbrother/supplied

A runner who won a 100km ultramarathon despite taking a wrong turn and going even further has been stripped off his title.

Tom Fairbrother finished the UK Race to the Stones event in eight hours, 35 minutes and 15 seconds - eight minutes ahead of his nearest rival.

He approached the finish line from the wrong direction after taking a wrong turn 92km into the gruelling race - more than twice as long as an Olympic marathon - held earlier this month. 

"I came to a fork in the trail," Fairbrother, running in his first ultramarathon, wrote on his blog. "The small red arrow was pointing right so I headed down the chalk white trail. I followed that for around 2km when I then came out onto a road. I thought this was odd, but lots of the course had been on country roads so I wasn't immediately concerned. 

"However I couldn't see any red arrows, so I was either lost, or had taken a wrong turn. But I had followed the arrows and there were no obvious points where I missed a turning."

The 31-year-old pulled out his phone and checked Google Maps, and realised he'd have to run a mile (1.6km) more than he initially expected, but didn't think much of it.

A few kilometres from the finish a passerby in a car offered to give him a ride back to the official race course.

"I was concerned that would mean I would be disqualified for outside assistance, so I declined. I just had to get back to the finish and explain what had happened."

The race organisers called him, and reassured him since he'd covered the 100km distance, as long as he made it back he'd take home the trophy.

"The CEO came over to me beaming, glad I was okay, assuring me I was the winner and seemed impressed I had run a mile further, and found my way back. 

"He said I had nothing to worry about. I gave an interview, posed for photos, was reunited with [my fiancee] and felt so relieved I had survived the past hour."

A few minutes later he was told since he'd gone off-course, he'd been disqualified. 

"I figured as I had run an extra mile, and still won by eight minutes, I clearly had not gained an advantage," Fairbrother wrote. "I had not missed any checkpoints, or overtaken anyone in the process."

A spokesperson for Race to the Stones said there was nothing wrong with the course's signage.

"We appreciate it must have been very disappointing for the leading runner to have gone off course and missed out on the victory," a spokesperson for the organisers told The Independent.

"Once we realised that he hadn't completed the comprehensively signposted route we explained to him he would unfortunately be disqualified."

Fairbrother said the experience has left a "bitter taste", but he's happy he proved to himself he was capable of doing it. 



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