Late Blunder Nearly Costs Runner Grandma’s Title

He stopped up short with 60 meters to go.

Christopher Kipyego (wearing bib #2) races Teklu Deneke at the finish of Grandma's Marathon last weekend. Photo: Twin

He stopped running with just 60 feet to go.

Spectators at last weekend’s  35th edition of Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota fully expected an exciting finish. What they didn’t expect to see was the lead runner pull up short of the finish.

That’s what happened.

With 60 feet to go to the finish, Christopher Kipyego of Kenya stopped running. He had crossed a timing mat and had mistaken it for the real finish. Hands thrust in the air, smile on his face, Kipyego was surprised when he saw race officials screaming at him to keep going.

Second-place runner Teklu Deneke of Ethiopia had seen Kipyego’s mistake and began to bear down fast on him. Kipyego took off at a sprint and barely edged out Deneke at the real finish.

Kipyego’s official time was 2:12:16.36, while Deneke’s was .20 seconds later–the closest finish in the history of Grandma’s.

“If I hadn’t miscalculated the finish line, I wouldn’t have had to worry about winning,” recalled Kipyego. “When it was over, I looked over at  [Deneke] and I didn’t know. [A race official] came over and told me I had won,” said Kipyego. “Sometimes things happen like that in competition and if you don’t win, you have to accept it.”

For More: USA Today