Runner Joasia Zakrzewski took a flight from Australia to the U.K. to compete in an ultramarathon – and then she used a car to finish the race. It was only after she accepted the third place prize that she revealed she had cheated during the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool, according to BBC News.
According to Facebook posts, Zakrzewski, 47, was neck and neck with the other top runners in the 50-mile race. But for 2.5 miles of it, she was in a car.
Zakrzewski, a doctor, has an explanation for why she got in the car. She said she became lost and her leg felt sore around the 25 mile mark. Her friend gave her a lift to the next checkpoint, where she tried to tell race officials she was quitting.
“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,'” Zakrzewski told BBC News Scotland.
She continued on in the race, but said it was in a “non-competitive” way and she was sure not to overtake other runners, she said.
But in the end, she and second place finisher Emily Newton were just 22 seconds apart, according to Facebook posts. And at one point, Zakrzewski was in second place.
Kelsey Wiberley, who took first, finished in 7:04:23. Newton finished in 7:24:55.
Zakrzewski, who apparently landed five minutes before the race registration, according to a post in a GB Ultras Facebook group, said she was jetlagged and felt sick during the race.
“I made a massive error accepting the trophy and should have handed it back,” she said. “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.”
After later finding out Zakrzewski cheated, GB Ultras disqualified her gave third place to the next finisher, Mel Sykes, who ended in 7:32:58, according to a Facebook post.
“I’m an idiot and want to apologize to Mel. It wasn’t malicious, it was miscommunication,” Zakrzewski said. “I would never purposefully cheat and this was not a target race, but I don’t want to make excuses.”
CBS News has reached out to Zakrzewski and GB Ultras for more information and is awaiting response.
This is not the first time someone has used transportation other than their legs during a race.
During the 1980 Boston Marathon, Rosie Ruiz won with a record time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 56 seconds – but she didn’t run the whole thing.
After skepticism was raised about how Ruiz finished the race so effortlessly, two Harvard students came forward and claimed they saw her enter the race at Kenmore Square, just about a mile from the finish line,
On top of cheating during Boston, Ruiz also cheated during the qualifier, hopping on the subway during the 1979 New York Marathon.