Why was the winner of the 2024 OC Marathon disqualified at the weekend?

 Marathon runner pouring water on himself.
Marathon runner pouring water on himself.

On Saturday, 3,500 runners took part in the Hoag OC Marathon, but the first person to cross the line was disqualified for breaking a rule many participants didn't know existed.

Local man Esteban Prado, from Fountain Valley, was denied the top prize after taking a drink of water from his father, who was supporting him during the race.

"During yesterday’s Hoag OC Marathon, we were forced to disqualify a participant after it was confirmed they received unauthorized assistance from an individual on a bicycle, in violation of USA Track & Field rules and our race regulations," race director Gary Kutschar said in a statement. "We take these rules seriously to ensure fairness and the integrity of our event for all competitors.”

Race rules

Under USA Track & Field (USATF) rules, runners may carry their own water from the start in a water bottle or hydration pack, or take water from an official station along the course. However, taking water from elsewhere is prohibited unless medical professionals have told the runner to do so.

"A competitor may receive from or pass to another competitor refreshment, water or sponges provided it was carried from the start or collected or received at an official station," says the USATF 2024 Competition Rulebook. "However, any continuous support from a competitor to one or more others in such a way may be regarded as unfair assistance and warnings and/or disqualifications [...] may be applied."

Many runners in Reddit's marathon training community were surprised to hear about the rule, including several who also ran Saturday's race. However, others have pointed out that it's standard for all USATF certified courses, and while a middle-of-the-pack runner is unlikely to be penalized for taking water provided by supporters, elite runners should be familiar with the governing body's regulations in full.

It's not the first surprise disqualification this year. Two runners were disqualified within the first few seconds of the Barkley Marathons in March, after breaking race rules by dropping litter on the course.