THE WOODLANDS, Texas – A mistake by a course official at The Woodlands Marathon on Saturday may cost more than 100 runners their shot at qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon.
Organizers confirmed that the race was cut short by 0.8 mile after a motorcycle cop hired by the race mistakenly directed a volunteer down the wrong route.
“(The volunteer) questioned it, and challenged that lead motorcyclist, but he proceeded following the lead motorcyclist,” explained Race Director Willie Fowlkes.
The problem was that volunteer was leading the hundreds of participants.
Instead of turning down a side street, the pack continued along Grogans Mill Road.
Runners quickly became suspicious.
“When I crossed two miles at about 12 minutes, I realized either the mile markers were in the wrong place or the course was short,” said Bernie Tretta, one of 932 finishers organizers believe ran the shortened course.
And the mistake could cost some.
“I didn’t even think about it, I just followed the pack,” explained Chris Wendt.
Wednt was among an estimated 120 runners from Saturday’s marathon to turn in times that could qualify them for the 2018 Boston Marathon.
“That was my ultimate goal,” said Wendt. “I've been trying the last three years to make it to Boston, so I finally hit it and now it might be for nothing.”
That’s because the Boston Marathon’s rules to qualify state: “Distances shorter than a full marathon will not be accepted.”
Fowlkes says they’ve already reached out to their counterparts in Boston hoping something can be done.
“It’s an important deal and we are extremely upset and disappointed that we couldn’t fulfill their dreams for some of them.” he said.
Fowlkes believes the reputation of The Woodlands Marathon is strong enough for the race to bounce back from what he admits is a black eye.
He says the race will offer discounted registration for the 2018 marathon beginning Monday.
The Facebook account for the marathon posted a photo of a press release about the mishap on Sunday.