Scottish Runner Joasia Zakrzewski Disqualified For Catching A Lift During Ultramarathon

"Bad news for sportsmanship".

Scottish Runner Joasia Zakrzewski Disqualified For Catching A Lift During Ultramarathon

“If the ref didn’t see it, it didn’t happen” is a common refrain in the world of amateur sport. Unfortunately for one Scottish-born, Sydney-based ultramarathon runner, the ref did happen to catch her out when she caught a lift from a mate during an endurance-testing race across the north of England.

There’s nothing wrong with cheat days, there’s a lot wrong with cheating on a partner, but there are few things worse than cheating during an internationally recognised sporting event. This week, in a move that left any and all notions of good sportsmanship in the dust, one runner has been exposed for doing just that…

A Scottish ultramarathon runner has been stripped of her third-place title in the GB Ultras race that covered a massive 80km stretch from Manchester to Liverpool.

This came after race data revealed that she had used a car for a 4km stretch of the race, the BBC reported. The discovery is currently being investigated by UK Athletics.

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Joasia Zakrzewski, who represented Scotland at Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games as a marathon runner, was found to have used a vehicle for part of the route.

Unsurprisingly, this was found to have given her an “unsporting, competitive advantage during a section of the event”, according to aptly-named race director Wayne Drinkwater.

After reviewing data from their race-tracking system – GPX data – along with statements provided by their event team, other race competitors, and Zakrzewski herself, organisers were able to confirm that she had taken vehicle transport during part of the route, ultimately leading to her disqualification.

I’d be smiling after a 4km joyride too. Image: The Times

In her defense, Zakrzewski claimed that her actions were “not malicious”: she had accepted a lift from a friend to the next available checkpoint as she wanted to tell marshals she was pulling out of the race due to injury and illness.

“When I got to the checkpoint I told them I was pulling out and that I had been in the car, and they said ‘you will hate yourself if you stop’, [so] I agreed to carry on in a non-competitive way.”

Joasia Zakrzewski

However, she admitted to making a “massive error” by accepting a third-place medal and a trophy at the end of the race, blaming her mind-melting illness: “I hold my hands up, I should have handed them back and not had pictures done but I was feeling unwell and spaced out and not thinking clearly.”

Fellow competitor Mel Sykes, who was latently awarded the third-place title, expressed wholly understandable disappointment in the incident.

Taking to Twitter after missing out on her moment in the limelight at the finish line, she said that it was “bad news for sportsmanship”:

The issue is now in the hands of the Trail Running Association and UK Athletics for a thorough investigation.

Though Sykes is obviously right that this is a bad day for sportsmanship in the running world, it’s worth noting that Zakrzewski still completed 76km of the race while suffering with an unknown illness.

Being an armchair critic myself, much more accustomed to a 76km drive and 4km of running – the run being to the front of the line at Maccers then back to my car – I rightly condemn Zakrzewski for her actions but admire the effort nevertheless…