Marathon's First US Winner in 20 Years Caught a Lucky Break

2 Kenyan leaders were diverted, disqualified at Quad Cities Marathon
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2021 10:50 AM CDT
2 Marathon Leaders Take Wrong Turn, Get Disqualified
Tyler Pence of Springfield, Ill., finishes first in the TBK Bank Quad Cities Marathon on Sunday in Moline, Ill.   (Gary L. Krambeck/Quad-City Times via AP)

An Illinois man became the first US runner since 2001 to claim victory in the Quad Cities Marathon on Sunday after watching the two Kenyan runners ahead of him go the wrong way. "I was about 20 seconds back, so I kind of saw it happening but I'm not going to shout. It's not my job," 28-year-old Tyler Pence, the head track and cross-country coach at the University of Illinois Springfield, who finished with the third-best time in race history at 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 6 seconds, tells the Quad-City Times. "It was pretty obvious where to go."

A bicyclist had been leading the two Kenyans along the 26.2-mile route that started and ended in downtown Moline, Ill., but failed to make a turn on Arsenal Island, around the 14-mile mark, per WQAD. He was followed by Elijah Mwangangi Saolo—the grandson of Kenyan running legend Joseph Nzau, who was close to beating his own record—and Luke Kibet, who were ultimately disqualified, per the Washington Post. Joe Moreno, the race's director, says some of the blame falls on himself and the bicyclist, who admitted he "messed up royally." But he adds the runners should have known where to go as they'd previewed the course, which was clearly marked.

Still, "I don't want this to be a total loss for them, so I think there is going to be some compensation for them," Moreno tells the Times. "That shows that we are taking some responsibility ourselves." Saolo had hoped to nab not only the win in the Boston Marathon qualifier, but the $3,000 first prize, per the Times. He supports his wife and two daughters "with his running and winning race prize money," according to a GoFundMe. It notes that "during the pandemic, the number of races and prize money has been very limited, severely hampering his running opportunities and income." (More marathon stories.)

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