Robert Cheruiyot was the first runner to cross the official finish line of the Jerusalem Marathon. He ended up in fourth place.
In a confusing end to the city's first-ever marathon, the leading three runners took a wrong turn in the final stages of the run and ended up crossing the finish line for the half-marathon, which was a few blocks away. They crossed that line more than a minute before Cheruiyot crossed the real finish. After some deliberations, race officials determined that the three Kenyan runners had officially finished the race despite the wrong turn and they were awarded the top three places. Raymond Kipkoechh was declared the winner, while Cheruiyot, the original winner, finished fourth.
Race officials are still unsure of how the error occurred, but the local media blame it on a wrong turn. Even less clear was why the three men who finished at the wrong line were awarded the victory. Their times were better, yes, but they still finished away from the pack. As of now, organizers have been mum about their rationale.
The easiest explanation to the mystery is also the most likely: the runners probably finished all 26.2 miles, just on a different course. Whether that was because of their own error, poor directional markings or a confused official was evidently irrelevant. Their times stood no matter where the finish line was.
Jerusalem's first-ever marathon, which included 10,000 runners, was contested two days after a fatal bomb attack in the city. The 26.2-mile course was lined with armed soldiers and the entire event was run under fierce opposition by Palestinians and Israeli leftists. All things considered, if a simple wrong turn ended up being the biggest problem, then the event was a success.
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