The Most Inspiring, Controversial, and Downright Bizarre Marathon Moments of 2017

Marathoners running over bridge
Alan Schein Photography

As we charge into marathon season, let’s take a look back at the year’s craziest race-day moments.

There were awe-inspiring triumphs, bizarre mishaps, and questionable controversies. Here are the top five:

1. Marathoner’s junk steals the show at Slovakian finish line

Distance runners are susceptible to a range of unfortunate afflictions: uncontrollable bodily functions, the occasional bloody nipple, chafing. Some are even known to lose feeling in their legs (they are trucking your ass across 26.2 miles, after all).

We’re not sure if this was the case for Slovakian runner Jozef Urban. As he neared the finish line of the Košice Peace Marathon in October, his shorts split wide open, exposing his junk in front of cheering bystanders, Canadian Running reported. And while it must have been embarrassing for Urban’s junk to steal his thunder, he did run a personal best. Urban shaved 27 seconds off his previous time of 2:22:18 (per the Association of Road). Maybe he was too pumped to notice? Or he just fulfilled some deep-seeded exhibitionist desires? Either way: PR!

2. Italian runners led astray mid-run, lose lead

The October 22 Venice Marathon took an interesting turn when a motorcycle guide led the lead pack of runners astray at roughly the 16-mile mark, ITV reports.

The favorites to win doubled back after several hundred meters, but it was enough distance for Italian marathon runner Eyob Faniel to take the lead. Faniel is the first Italian runner to reign victorious in 22 years, The Guardian reported. He ran a time of 2:12:16.

3. Marathoner’s own Garmin exposes cheating ways

It took an Internet sleuth’s detective work, a suspicious official, and Internet outrage for writer and food blogger Jane Seo to fess up to cutting the Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon short back in February, the New York Post reports. Her splits raised eyebrows since she ran the first portion of the race averaging 7:09 per mile, then increased her speed to a lightning-fast 5:25 pace, finishing the race in second place.

Business analyst Derek Murphy—the so-called “world’s best Internet sleuth”—found a photo of Seo at the finish line with her Garmin smartwatch visible. He enlarged the photo and found she only ran 11.65 miles. He then checked out her Strava splits, and found they reflected someone who would’ve biked the course. Seo later confessed that that’s precisely what she did. After the race, she biked the path to cover her tracks by GPS and “prove” she ran the full race. She was kicked off New York-based running squad Dashing Whippets Running Team, the New York Post reported, and Jillian Pollack was awarded second place with a time of 1:23.38, according to the Miami New Times.

4. Ethiopian runner crushes two marathons in…sandals

Amogne Sendeku Alelgn is so talented, he doesn’t even need a proper pair of running shoes to demolish 26.2 miles, the Irish Sun reports. He’s blazing-fast in beat-up sandals, as evidenced by his October wins at the Jingyuan International Marathon, and again at the Songshan Shaolin International Marathon (both in China).

If that’s not a true testament to his abilities—and iron-clad joints—we don’t know what is.

5. Nike athletes attempt to break a two-hour marathon

This year, Nike granted three runners—Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese, and Lelisa Desisa—the opportunity to make history in the Breaking2 attempt. In the early hours of May 6, on the race course in Monza, Italy, a pack of 30 pacers (and a Tesla car carrying a laser pacing line) helped guide the runners in their landmark to crack the two-hour barrier. Kipchoge came the closest to hitting 1:59:59, ultimately clocking 2:00:25.

And while some people found the event a little too gimmicky (and the shoes too much of an aid) for Kipchoge’s finish to be considered a true world record, the attempt roused an interest in pushing limits. Kevin Hart said Kipchoge inspired him to run the New York City marathon on November 5.

Gearing up for a marathon yourself? Use these tips to help you perform your best on race day.

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