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Marathoner reacts after men release confetti, pink smoke around her during final mile

Rachel Hannah, 37, is a seasoned marathon runner with an impressive track record. But her latest race during an Ottawa marathon is one she won’t soon forget.

The runner from Ontario, who has pounded pavements from London to Tokyo, ran the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon on May 25 and became the first Canadian woman and third overall female to cross the finish line with a time of 2:48:03. Still, the race was more of an effort than anticipated when she crossed paths with a throng of enthusiastic bystanders.

As Hannah pushed through the final stretch with just over a kilometer to go, her focus was trained on the finish line. It was then that spectators stepped onto the course and began to cheer her on with colorful smoke bombs and confetti.

The full moment can be seen in the marathon’s video coverage at the three-hour 14-minute mark.

Hannah can be seen shrouded in a haze of hot pink smoke being spread by two men who flank her sides. At one point, a man kneels before her and sets off a stream of confetti. The video shows Hannah moving her hands to clear the smoke, a movement she tells TODAY.com she barely remembers in the blur of the last leg.

"I‘m not sure that’s exactly what you want happening right now," a sportscaster can be heard saying in one clip shared by TikTok user @resiliencyinrunning.

“No, no, no, no,“ another agrees.

In the post’s comments section and in another shared on Instagram, users speculated that sabotage was involved.

Speaking to TODAY.com, Hannah stresses that it was simply a result of overenthusiasm and the resources accessible in smaller marathon events.

"It looks worse than how I remembered, but I really just think they got excited because they’re a group that cheers on people, and they come to a lot of races. They support the running community," she explains.

“They got too close, and I think they just misjudged the space. I didn’t see it as a way that they were trying to stop me on the course. They were trying to celebrate.”

According to Hannah, the men in the video caught wind of suspicions about their behavior and called her immediately.

“They reached out to me right away that afternoon and apologized,“ she noted.

Despite the disturbance, she managed to finish the race without any physical harm.

Reflecting on it all now, Hannah said a lesson can be learned from the ordeal regarding spectator awareness and safety.

“With crowds, it’s best to stay off the course because it’s a lot safer for runners,” she explains. “Crowds cheering is great. It helps with the race. It was just unexpected and I found it distracting.”

In a post shared on her Instagram page after the race, Hannah celebrated her performance while reminding spectators to be mindful while watching races.

"Crowd support and cheering makes a huge difference in motivation for us all," her post reads in part. "But after encountering very enthusiastic cheering that caught me and many others off guard in the last km of the race; I ask on behalf of the race organizers, volunteers, fellow runners and other spectators that we cheer safely and off the course."

Lisa Georges, the director of marketing for the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon, shared a statement about the incident in an email to TODAY.com.

"We appreciate the enthusiasm of our spectators and supporters — in fact, we believe Ottawa provides the best crowd support in the country!" the statement, which was also shared on the race's Instagram, reads in part.

“Athletes have worked extremely hard to be able to achieve their goals at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, and it would be a shame to have their race derailed by spectators and fans obstructing their running.”

Fortunately, Hannah has no plan to lose her focus when it comes to her races in the future. With nine years of running experience and races under her belt, she’s eager to continue her journey. Her future plans include participating in shorter races and aiming for a personal best in one of the major marathons.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com