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Former world record holder disqualified for taking a car during 50-mile race

Former 48-hour world record holder Joasia Zakrzewski is facing scrutiny for hitching a ride at a recent 50-miler in the U.K.

joasia Zakrzewski Photo by: Taiwan Ultrarunning Association

Scottish ultrarunning record holder Joasia Zakrzewski has been stripped of a recent third-place finish at a British 50-miler after it was discovered that she rode in a car for about two and a half miles mid-race. Zakrzewski told the BBC that while she did hitch a ride with a friend, her decision to do so “wasn’t malicious.” Zakrzewski is the owner of multiple Scottish and British ultrarunning records, and she ran the 48-hour world record in February (although her distance was bettered by Camille Herron in March). 

Zakrzewski lives in Australia, and she reportedly travelled last-minute to the U.K. for the April 7 Manchester to Liverpool ultramarathon, arriving the night before the race. As she told the BBC, she got lost on the course halfway through the race, at which point she began dealing with leg pain that eventually became too much to handle. She saw a friend on the sidelines and decided to pull out of the run, hopping in his car and riding to tell the race marshals she was done for the day.

“When I got to the checkpoint I told them I was pulling out and that I had been in the car,” Zakrzewski said. “They said, ‘You will hate yourself if you stop.'” Zakrzewski agreed and carried on, later telling the BBC that she only planned to finish the race non-competitively. 

After crossing the line in third place, however, Zakrzewski was given a medal, a trophy and she was asked to pose for podium pictures. She didn’t stop to let anyone know she had cut the course, but Zakrzewski said that was not intentional.  

“I made a massive error accepting the trophy and should have handed it back,” she said. “I was tired and jet-lagged and … I was feeling unwell and spaced out and not thinking clearly.” Zakrzewski’s car ride blip was not noticed immediately, but race director Wayne Drinkwater was eventually tipped off that she had received an “unsporting, competitive advantage during a section of the event.” 

Drinkwater and his team checked the race tracking data and took statements from other competitors, before moving forward with Zakrzewski’s disqualification. As The Guardian reported, a GPS file shows that Zakrzewski covered a mid-race mile in one minute and 40 seconds. 

With Zakrzewski disqualified, a runner named Mel Sykes is the new third-place finisher at the race. “I’m an idiot and want to apologize to Mel,” Zakrzewski said. “I would never purposefully cheat.”

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