Ultra-marathon runner apologises for 'massive error' after using car during race

Joasia Zakrzewski pictured crossing the finish line the Good Friday GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool race. Credit: GB Ultras

Scottish ultra-marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski has apologised after being disqualified for using a car for 2.5-miles of a 50-mile race.

The 47-year-old GP from Dumfries had finished third in the 50-mile GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool race on April 7.

Her time of seven hours and 25 minutes was just 22 seconds behind the second-place finish.

But she is believed to have travelled 2.5 miles in a car after mapping data found she covered a mile in one minute and 40 seconds.

This is equivalent to 35mph - the highest-recorded speed Usain Bolt ever reached was 27.3mph.

Speaking to the BBC, she said she had become lost on the track and developed pain in her leg, as well as feeling jetlagged after recently travelling from her current home in Australia.

She said she then saw a friend and accepted their offer to give them a lift to the next checkpoint.

Dr Zakrzewski said: "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'."

"I agreed to carry on in a non-competitive way.

"I made sure I didn't overtake the runner in front when I saw her as I didn't want to interfere with her race."

But when she finished the race she accepted her third-place medal and posed for photographs.

Joasia Zakrzewski (left) after completing the race. Credit: GB Ultras

She said: "I made a massive error accepting the trophy and should have handed it back.

"I was tired and jetlagged and felt sick.

"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."

Dr Zakrezewski finished 14th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon in Scotland and has set records in the UK over 100 and 200 miles.

Third place has now been awarded to Mel Sykes.

Ms Sykes said on Twitter it was "great news for me but really bad news for sportsmanship."

Other competitors in the race have criticised Dr Zakrezewski's actions and have called for her to be banned from other races.

Dr Zakrezewski said she wanted to apologise to Ms Sykes saying "it wasn't malicious, it was miscommunication.

"I would never purposefully cheat and this was not a target race, but I don't want to make excuses.

"Mel didn't get the glory at the finish and I'm really sorry she didn't get that."

Dr Zakrezewski said she was extremely upset by the calls for her to be banned from racing after saying she had.

She said: "I've given so much to the running world so I am devastated this has happened."

Colin Rushton, who took part in the race, said on Twitter "such a crazy thing to do in a race that has no prize money or qualifies you into anything."

Wayne Drinkwater, the director of the GB Ultras race, said it was "very disappointing".

He told the BBC: "The issue has been investigated and, having reviewed the data from our race tracking system, GPX data, statements provided from our event team, other competitors and from the participant herself, we can confirm that a runner has now been disqualified from the event having taken vehicle transport during part of the route."

"The matter is now with the TRA (Trail Running Association) and, in turn, UK Athletics (UKA) as the regulatory bodies."

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