Race mistakes lead to Maine Marathon course record, three disqualifications

·5 min read

Oct. 7—Abby Hamilton thought she had just missed setting a course record in winning the Maine Marathon.

Jarrod Ottman thought he had run a personal-best time in winning the Half Marathon.

Three days after the 30th running of the Maine Marathon, Half Marathon & Marathon Relay, Hamilton and Ottman learned they were wrong.

A website typo led organizers to believe Hamilton just missed the record, but in fact she did set a course record and earned a $500 bonus after the 22-year-old Yarmouth native ran to victory in her marathon debut in a time of 2 hours, 39 minutes, 38 seconds.

"Wow, I can't believe that," Hamilton said Wednesday morning upon learning the news. "I had no idea."

The previous record established by Emily LeVan in 2004 was 2:39:54 but mistakenly listed on the event website as 2:39:34, leading organizers to believe Hamilton had missed the mark by mere seconds.

A recent graduate of Bates College who had never run faster than a 6:30 mile pace while training, Hamilton said her goal had been to break three hours. Instead, she ran at a 6:06 pace but wasn't aware of it because she disdained looking at her watch during the race.

"When I saw the time, I really couldn't believe it at the end," she said. "I was just so happy and thankful for the experience and for the race directors and volunteers and everyone who came out to cheer in the rain. The day was just incredibly special for me. I couldn't have asked for more."

A keen-eyed editor at New England Runner magazine spotted the typo in LeVan's record time and alerted race organizers on Tuesday. Hamilton said the extra money, on top of the $1,000 she earned for first place, would go toward paying off student loans.

She is currently enrolled in three online classes in advance of Physician Assistant schooling and missed a clarifying email Wednesday morning because she was immersed in a microbiology test. Hamilton said she spent time in four different packs of runners Sunday, and learned from their advice along the course.

As the lead female marathoner, she also drew plenty of applause and excitement among runners still heading north along Route 88 after she had made the turn in Yarmouth and was heading back to Portland.

"Everyone was cheering so loud and it meant so much to me," she said. "Everyone made it such a special day and it will always be a great memory for me."

Not so for Ottman, who hails from Merrimack, New Hampshire, and ran four years at Thomas College in Waterville. The 23-year-old apparently won the Half Marathon by more than a minute in 1:06:31 but learned Wednesday morning that a race volunteer on a bicycle mistakenly moved a barrier inside Payson Park and led the pace car and Ottman to take the right fork out of the park instead of the left, prior to turning right on Baxter Boulevard.

A subsequent volunteer realized what had happened and restored the barrier, but not before two more half marathoners had followed Ottman to the right, shaving roughly a tenth of a mile off the certified 13.1-mile course. That led race organizers to disqualify the first three finishers: Ottman, Nick Matteucci of St. Louis and Jonathan Briskman of Northampton, Massachusetts.

"That's ridiculous," Ottman said by phone Wednesday. "It sounds like the people who were on the bikes clearly needed more information on what's what, as well as the pace car. That's disappointing because that was my best race this season."

Race director Bob Dunfey said all three disqualified runners will keep their prize money ($500-$400-$300) and that the runners in fourth through eighth place will receive prize money commensurate with their upgraded standing.

"We wanted to be consistent with USATF guidelines and rules," Dunfey said. "We feel this is the best outcome, considering we feel at fault."

That makes Nicholas Denari, 28, of Portland the official winner of the half marathon, in a time of 1:11:34. On Sunday, he reached the finish line more than two minutes behind Briskman.

Dunfey said he has spoken with the volunteer who drove the pace car but had not made contact with the lead cyclist, who, according to Dunfey, ought to have remained behind Ottman or at least adjacent to him.

"The cyclist should not be moving any barricades," Dunfey said. "They should be tracking the lead runners. I think the lead runners were just as confused as the driver of the (car displaying the race clock)."

Because of coronavirus restrictions, the race had not been held in person since October 2019. Participants in Sunday's event were required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for COVID-19 and wear a mask prior to entering the course.

Even with the new policy requirements, Dunfey said registrations for this year's race were within 300 of the 3,840 who signed up for the 2019 race. A virtual component this year attracted 223 runners, who have until Monday to complete their chosen distance.

Wet weather and the more infectious delta variant of COVID-19 likely contributed to a rise in no-shows to 20 percent, compared to a normal year of roughly 15 percent, Dunfey said.

Ottman expressed doubt about returning to Portland for the race next year. Hamilton already is planning for it, along with an attempt at Boston next April.

"I'm going to try to do two marathons a year," she said. "I'm excited for my next one."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting