The race course for Saturday’s INEOS 1:59 Challenge was 1200 meters short, event officials said, citing a traffic cone misplaced by a race volunteer. The news came as the world celebrated Eliud Kipchoge, who just hours earlier thought, mistakenly, that he’d become the first in history to run the marathon distance—26.2 miles—in less than 2 hours.
Kipchoge crossed the finish line in 1 hour 59 minutes 40 seconds.
“Sorry,” Edward Grimley, the event’s race director, told reporters at a hastily called news conference in Vienna, where the event took place. “Boy, this is embarrassing.”
“Sorry,” he said again.
Grimley explained the snafu by saying a volunteer had misplaced a traffic cone meant to mark a turnaround point. The error cut about 1200 meters from the total distance, meaning Kipchoge ran about 41.6 km, or 25.9 miles
“This was a kid from a local high school cross country team,” Grimley said, describing the volunteer in question. “He feels really bad.”
It was Kipchoge’s second attempt to run a marathon in under 2 hours; in 2017, he ran 2:00:25 at a Formula One racetrack in Italy. Now, presumably, he’ll need to try again. To that end, Grimley said he was refunding Kipchoge’s entry fee for this year’s race and giving him guaranteed free entry to next year’s event.
“We truly regret this error and promise to do better next time,” said Grimley. “We hope Mr. Kipchoge gives us another chance.”
True to form, the good-natured Kipchoge took the news in stride, saying he wasn’t entirely surprised.
“You know, I thought it felt a little too easy,” he said. “Around 35 kilometers, I looked at my watch and thought, Wow, can that be right?”
“Ha ha,” he added.