On Sunday, as she readied herself for a half-marathon at the Run for Heroes event in Amherstburg, Ontario, 34-year-old Meredith Fitzmaurice set just one goal for herself: to beat her personal best time of 1 hour, 28 minutes. The Canadian teacher told CBC Radio that the race was supposed to prepare her for her upcoming Boston Marathon qualifying attempt next month. But things didn’t go quite as planned.
According to the Montreal Gazette, Fitzmaurice took a wrong turn during her run and ended up on the route for the full marathon. Initially unaware of her mistake, Fitzmaurice kept running … and running. Not only did she end up completing the marathon, she also won the gold medal in the women’s event.
Fitzmaurice, who had never attempted a marathon before Sunday, said she came to realize her mistake during the race but wanted to use the experience as a training session anyway.
“I said to myself, ‘OK, well, you don’t want to turn around now because you’re not going to be happy with your time for the half, so why don’t you just get 20 miles in for a good training session,'” she told CBC Radio.
But as she continued running, Fitzmaurice noticed there were no female competitors in front of her. It dawned on her that if she finished the full marathon with a good time, she might be able to use it to qualify for Boston.
She asked a race official along the way if her marathon time would count, even though she had only signed up for the half-marathon. After consulting the race director, the official gave her the green light.
“The adrenaline just pulled me through,” she told the Ottawa Citizen of the last few miles of the 26.2-mile race. “I just kept thinking you can do this, just get it done.”
Fitzmaurice finished the event with a time of 3:11:48. She qualified for the Boston Marathon, in addition to winning the women’s race.
“I cried…[when I realized] what I’d just accomplished,” Fitzmaurice told CBC Radio.
As her surprise win makes headlines this week, the running community is abuzz over whether or not she deserved the gold medal. According to Windsor Star blogger Kelly Steele, some feel the race director’s decision to count Fitzmaurice’s time and win sets a “bad precedent.”
“Her time should either be noted under the half marathon results or unfortunately a DQ (didn’t qualify),” wrote one Facebooker, as pointed out by Steele. “One must ask the question ‘How would the Boston Marathon view this finish?’ The Amherstburg Marathon — a sanctioned Boston Marathon qualifier — should also be held to the same rules and standards as that of the Boston Marathon if we are to hold Boston as the gold standard.”
Others, however, argued Fitzmaurice ran the same course as all the other competitors and was, ultimately, the best female runner that day.
“A win is a win,” said Steele. “And on Sunday, like it or not, Meredith was having the race of her life and she was without a doubt the fastest woman on the course.”