Santa Rosa Marathon has more trouble: Runners sent wrong way

Several runners in Sunday's Santa Rosa Marathon were steered off course by a race pacer sending some entrants nearly a mile in the wrong direction.|

It's not the Santa Rosa Marathon without controversy.

It played out Sunday for the third time in the past four years as several runners were steered by a race pacer off course, sending some entrants nearly a mile in the wrong direction before turning around and finishing the race, costing some valuable time and potential entry into the 2017 Boston Marathon.

With this marathon being one of the last races to qualify before Boston Marathon registration opens and closes in late September, minutes do matter, and the unplanned detour caused some runners to miss their qualifying times for the legendary race.

This year's controversial race follows events in 2013 and 2015 that marred final results, but this year's mistake might have affected the field the most.

According to race entrants, the 3:03 pacer took a wrong turn at the first aid station on Hope and Fifth, turning right instead of left and ended up running down Brookwood Avenue for some distance.

Once the 3:03 pacer realized his mistake, he started sprinting back toward the marathon course.

Race entrant Brigitte Bradford tweeted a similar account of the blunder: “Not a good sign to see the 3:03 pacer sprinting up from behind the 3:29 pacer at the #SantaRosaMarathon.”

A man who was identified by another race entrant as the 3:03 pacer declined to comment, other than to say “I need to go to the beer garden … I've had a bad day.”

Cat Jubinski won the women's marathon in 3:04:58, and was one of the people caught in the unplanned detour.

“We almost did a full half mile and had to turn back around and backtrack,” she said. “We all ran over 27 miles, instead of the 26.2.”

Jubinski didn't even know if she was the race winner for sure because half-marathon runners were finishing at the same time as the marathon runners. “I don't know. There may be another girl that's in front of me. And no one knows because they're not sure what happened on course,” she said.

An unidentified racer said there's usually a biker with the lead woman on course, but because of the course error early in the race, the biker wasn't sure if she was with the right leading woman.

“Maybe I'll be second, and that's fine too,” said Jubinski of her unknown result at the time.

Andrew Vogel of Mountain View finished 47 seconds over the Boston Marathon qualifying time for his age bracket - 18-34 at 3 hours, 5 minutes, but has a time from the Napa Marathon that makes Sunday's result not as important.

“If I didn't have a 3:02 from Napa, I'd be furious,” Vogel said.

And there were plenty of those runners, too.

Irvine's Abe Sheppard, who has qualified for the Boston Marathon eight consecutive years, got caught in the detour, and missed the qualifying time in his age group - 40-44 at 3 hours 15 minutes - by exactly 1 minute, 38 seconds.

“Somehow we made a wrong turn,” Sheppard said.

“We were supposed to make a left turn. We made a right. We didn't realize it until we ran an extra three-quarters of a mile. We just realized there was traffic on the course and it didn't seem right. It seemed like we were going in the wrong direction.

“Everyone was just following their pacer. There was a pacer leading.”

Sheppard was told by race officials that they couldn't do anything about his finishing time.

“I ran 26.2 miles in 3:11, which qualifies me by four minutes. But my clock time here was 3:16, which means I don't qualify … yeah, it's crap.

Sheppard's frustration was evident.

“I spent a lot of money to get here. It's an expensive race. I bought airfare, took time off of work. I've never heard of this happening at a race like this,” Sheppard said.

“There's no reason that there can be an inkling of doubt on where to go on a course like this. There are cones, there are arrows, there should be people at every corner, and they obviously did not have people at every corner and they obviously didn't have the cones set up right.”

Sheppard will fail to qualify for the Boston Marathon as he needs to get a qualifying time for the race within the next two weeks and will be unable to run another marathon before then.

Aside from the mix-up the half-marathon and marathon winners were representatives of Maria Carrillo, Healdsburg and Kelseyville high schools:

2002 Carrillo graduate Jordan Kinley won the men's marathon, pulling away from the pack to finish in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 35 seconds, 12 minutes ahead of Oxnard's Chris Gilbert. It was Kinley's fourth marathon victory, and the first one he's run in six years.

“Marathons don't get any easier,” he said.

Kinley won the Oklahoma City Marathon in 2009 and 2010, in addition to winning the Charlotte Marathon in 2010. He hasn't run the Boston Marathon, yet, but with the race practically in his current backyard - he lives in Salem, Massachusetts - he wouldn't commit to it right away after Sunday's long run.

Santa Rosa resident and Healdsburg graduate Vojta Ripa won the men's half marathon in 1:15:37. Ripa has close ties to the running community in Sonoma County, as he works at Heart and Sole, the running store owned by Kinley's former running coach and current Sonoma Academy running coach Danny Aldridge.

Kelseyville sophomore Andre Williams, 14, won the men's 5K in 16 minutes, 49 seconds after finishing second in a close finish at the same event last year.

“I've been running with faster kids,” he said. “Running with faster kids makes you faster.”

Santa Rosa's Talia Leano was the highest female finisher in the 10K with a time to of 43 minutes, 19 seconds.

It was a day that reminded entrants of two previous marathons marred by controversy.

The top three male finishers in 2013 were disqualified after they followed the wrong course route for a portion of the race and passed a runner who ran the right course.

In 2015, marathon entrant Wendy Jennings ran the half-marathon course, but failed to tell race officials for hours about her decision, leading race officials to honor Jennings as the winner before correctly honoring Caroline Boller as the actual women's marathon winner.

“It was a beautiful day for a race,” said Vogel, one of the Boston hopefuls who took the wrong turn and missed qualifying.

“A nice course, the crowd was fun, the volunteers were enthusiastic. I just wish we could have had that figured out.”

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