Protest fails to dislodge O'Rourke as the winner

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2014
Christchurch airport marathon

RACE TIME: Thousands entered the 2013 Christchurch airport marathon.

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Wellington athlete Gabrielle O'Rourke will keep her Christchurch half marathon title despite unwittingly running a shorter distance yesterday.

An Athletics Canterbury jury of appeal confirmed O'Rourke's status as race winner would stand and Canterbury's Alex Williams would also be retained in second place.

Race director Chris Cox said the two leading women were among a bunch of runners who "turned early" due to a "marshalling and coning mistake" just before the halfway mark of the 21km race, in Conservators Rd, near Christchurch Airport.

The error was not detected until later.

"Apparently, some runners turned early. We don't know why."

The bunch followed, along with a race marshall trailing the lead female runners by bicycle.

"We are gutted. There are a few upset people, including us," Cox said. "But we think we've got a pretty good result."

A protest was lodged after the race results were posted.

But, Cox said the the jury of appeal felt, "on balance", after examining the evidence, that had the mistake not occurred, the placings would not have changed. "So Gabrielle O'Rourke keeps her title."

But the times set by O'Rourke and Williams would not count as official times because they had run a shorter course.

Cox said he had spoken to the four runners affected - O'Rourke, Williams, Louisa Andrew, who was third, and fourth-placegetter Sarah Gardiner - and they had all accepted the jury's decision

"I think they have come up with a pretty good compromise. It could have been a lot worse."

Speaking before the protest was publicly known, O'Rourke put her victory down to superior shoe traction in the icy conditions near the hedgerows down Savills Rd.

Only 0.15sec separated O'Rourke and Williams, the 2013 titleholder.

"I had bit of an advantage over Alex on the slippery bits because I had really good grip on my shoes. That's when I pulled away from her," O'Rourke said.

Canterbury athlete Callan Moody turned the tables on Auckland track rival Malcolm Hicks to win the men's half marathon.

Hicks, a sub-four minute miler, beat Moody in the 5000m final at the New Zealand track and field championships last season.

"I was stoked, to be honest," Moody, 26, said. "And the time [1hr 6min 6sec] was a nice wee surprise . . . I did 69 minutes last year, so it was a big improvement."

Moody relished the cold conditions and ran comfortably in the front pack before clearing away on the final kilometre.

Nathan Baxter was third in the men's half marathon with Aaron Pulford fourth and Australia's Brady Threlfall fifth.

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