For the third time in four years, the Santa Rosa Marathon in California is the subject of controversy.
According to local newspaper The Press Democrat, runners were directed off course because of a wrong turn, which added as much as 1.5K to some runners’ marathons. As entry for the historic Boston Marathon opens Sept. 12, many runners had travelled to Santa Rosa in a last-chance bid to run a qualifying time.
— Coach Ken (@fitfood4fighter) August 28, 2016
Runners went the wrong way when the 3:03 pacer veered off course just before the first aid station. One runner’s account states that the wrong turn happened between the first and second mile. Another participant, Karl Engel, posted his GPS data which shows that the wrong turn added an additional 0.8 miles (1.3K) to the route for a total of 43.6K.
When the pacer realized his error, the runner turned around and quickly upped the pace to make up for lost time. Brigitte Bradford tweeted that it’s “not a good sign to see the 3:03 pacer sprinting up from behind the 3:29 pacer.”
— Brigitte Bradford (@brig42) August 28, 2016
The women’s race winner, Cat Jubinski, was one of the runners who followed the wrong route in the early portion of the race and as a result, she was initially unaware that she had finished first. There were also half-marathon runners finishing at the same time as those in the full marathon. It’s believed that the lead cyclist was with a different woman because of the early-race confusion.
The first 3K of the marathon involves a neighbourhood loop and several 90-degree turns. The incident took place near the aid station, marked by a water drop, at the 1.5-mile mark (that found at the top right corner of the below map).
GPS data shows where the runners did a small out-and-back loop.
It’s not clear what the course markings were at the turnoff where the pacer went the wrong way. Santa Rosa Marathon organizers have reached out to the Boston Athletics Association to “find out what can be done to help resolve the issue.” Their full statement can be found at the bottom of this page.
— Beth Schlanker (@BethSchlanker) August 28, 2016
As the race is known for having a fast course, some who travelled to Santa Rosa to run a Boston qualifying time were left disappointed. Abraham Sheppard missed the time he needed to be eligible for Boston by less than two minutes. His Boston qualifying streak of eight-consecutive years appears to be coming to an end as the turnaround for another marathon before entry cut-off is tight.
In 2013, the top three male finishers were disqualified from the Santa Rosa Marathon for following an incorrect route. In 2015, a runner who signed up for the marathon decided mid-race to switch to the half-marathon and crossed the line first but was later removed as the winner.
The race is a popular destination race as it’s located in the San Francisco Bay Area and typically offers warm and fast conditions.
The race issued the following statement on its Facebook page on Monday:
“Dear Santa Rosa Marathon participants,
While most runners experienced a smooth race, several of those in the fastest groups were led off course and ran extra distance during the event. We understand that this was a critical error for everyone attempting to achieve their best performance, and we are deeply committed to improving our approach going forward. So, I have reached out to the BAA to find out what can be done to help resolve the issue. We appreciate your patience.
Our pace teams are led by volunteers who are avid runners and who are enthusiastic about helping Santa Rosa Marathon participants reach their goals. The entire pace team works hard to improve its performance each year. To that end, the team has agreed to pre-run the 2017 course in any areas where turns and special instructions are needed. The team will also take additional steps to increase its accuracy in course knowledge, while continuing to provide a course-consistent pace and the instructive services that you expect from them.
While we cannot undo what happened yesterday, we are offering those who were incorrectly led off course a free 2017 Santa Rosa Marathon entry or a refund of the 2016 entry fee. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Santa Rosa Marathon would not exist without the loyalty and enthusiasm of thousands of runners and volunteers. Thanks for your continued support in helping us to make each year better than the last.
Earlier this year, an error at a Tennessee marathon resulted in some race times to be invalidated because the course was not properly measured.