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Two Kenyan runners disqualified at the Quad Cities Marathon for getting lost

Should race winners be disqualified for accidentally stepping off the course?

Photo by: Don Henderson

On Sunday at the Quad Cities Marathon in Moline, Ill., two runners who were minutes ahead of the eventual winner, Tyler Pence, were disqualified after being diverted off the course late in the race by volunteers.

Elijah Mwangangi Saolo and Luke Kibet of Kenya were far in front of Pence but both were directed the wrong way by the lead bicycle, who led the runners straight when they should have turned. The race director explained the mistake to Saolo and Kibet near the finish line, and both men were disqualified.

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Saolo entered this race to win the first-place prize of $3,000 to help him stay in the U.S. with his wife and children.

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Pence, who is a cross-country coach at the University of Illinois-Springfield, finished the race in 2:15:06, becoming the first U.S. runner to win the event since 2001, and his time was the third-fastest in the race’s history. This was the first race for Pence since competing in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in early 2020 (where he registered a DNF).

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“It was obvious where to go out there, I am not sure what went on,’’ said Pence to the Quad-City Times. “I was around 20 seconds back, I saw it happening, but I’m not going to shout anything. It’s not my job.”

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This is the second large-scale event in the last two weeks to disqualify the leader of the race due to an organizational mistake; the winner of the Bristol Half Marathon was disqualified after he won by taking a wrong turn.