If you are going to make a horrible mistake while running a half-marathon, this is how you do it.
The Ottawa Citizen's Kelly Steele (h/t Deadspin) reports Meredith Fitzmaurice, a 34-year-old runner who had never run a full marathon, took a wrong turn during her half-marathon attempt at Sunday's Run for Heroes Marathon in Amherstburg, Ont. and lucked into her first 26.2-mile win.
At some point, it dawned on Fitzmaurice that the finish line for her half-marathon had to be close, but that didn't seem to be the case.
As Deadspin's Barry Petchesky notes, she took a wrong turn and kept going on the full marathon course, writing that she must have failed to turn on Alma Street. Here is a link Petchesky provided to the half-marathon course map. And here is a link to the full course.
Slowly, she realized what she did and decided to just continue and see just how far she could run on the longer course. "Once I realized what I had done, I figured, well I'll just run 20 miles and use it as a long run and call it a day."
If nothing else, the mistake would give her some idea of how she would do at the subsequent marathon in Detroit she planned to run.
Of course, there was more at stake than just personal glory. Fitzmaurice was now hoping to use her chance run to qualify for the Boston Marathon but wasn't sure if her time would matter.
With only nine men ahead of her and no women in sight, she asked a nearby official on a bike whether her fortuitous experience was nothing more than a grueling run or a Boston Marathon qualifier.
The official said he was going to ask the race director. So as I'm running I'm wondering if my race is going to count, I'm thinking about my friend who is at the finish line probably wondering where I am since I have the keys to the car. And my neighbour, who was going to be waiting for me at the finish line. I knew they were going to be worried about me.
More than that, she was also worried about her pace and endurance, because she hadn't set out to tackle a behemoth task.
In an odd turn, luck was on her side. The course official said her time would stand whatever that might be, and like Bugs Bunny taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque, she was about to come away unscathed.
At this point in the story, merely finishing the marathon would make for a remarkable story, but Fitzmaurice found that her unlikely journey happened to be the best run of the female field.
Kelly writes that as she neared the finish line, an exhausted Fitzmaurice fed off of adrenaline as well as fans informing her that she was in the lead.
In the end, she finished amid tears and a time of 3:11:48, good for 10th among all runners, qualifying for Boston.
Although, the mistake may have helped her finish the race, she is careful to note that she was running for a half-marathon at first, so her pace may have given her the needed endurance in the end.
This weird story yields some rather unorthodox advice. Perhaps the best way to finish your first marathon is not to set out to finish one.
When I crossed the finish line I saw my friend and I started to cry and then I hugged the guy on the bike. Without him I wouldn't have been able to do it. This was my first one and even though my family was disappointed they weren't there to see it, maybe this was meant to be. I was alone and maybe this was how I was meant to do it.
Every sport has their fair share of gaffes and blunders. Most lead to some embarrassing moments for the athletes in question.
In a wonderful twist, Fitzmaurice's mistake turned into the best moment in her running career. Now someone make sure she has a firm grasp of the map when she runs in Boston, or there is no telling where she might run off to.
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