Yesterday looked like it was going to be a hell of a day for Olok Nykew, a 37-year-old St. Paul man who was running the Sioux Falls Marathon. Barely tired, Nykew suddenly spotted the finish line ahead, with no other runners around him. Had he really run 26.2 miles? It didn't feel that way, but the cheers of the crowd and the reactions of the race organizers made him think maybe, just maybe, he had run the race of his life, shattering the course record by 25 minutes.
"Maybe I'm lost, I don't know."
Not lost, just not on time. Nykew had shown up to the start 45 minutes late, 45 minutes after all the marathoners had begun. Instead he started with the half-marathoners, whose course would overlap with the full one, and end at the same spot. He didn't realize the problem, even though the marathoners and half-marathoners were wearing different-colored bibs.
Organizers didn't immediately figure it out either. They only knew that Nykew had been registered as a full marathoner, and here he was, finishing about 2:06 after the full marathon starting gun, a world-class time.
"I thought what is this? When I got there I thought it was not long enough. I'm thinking I'm not cheating. I was just confused. It was an honest mistake," he said.
Officials had been monitoring the lead pack, and hadn't seen Nykew go by, so they knew something was up. It was all sorted out, the real winner identified, and Nykew was disqualified—he doesn't even get to keep his 80-minute half-marathon time.
Apparent winner mistakenly runs half-marathon course [Argus Leader]
Photo via Mikael Damkier/Shutterstock