‘I Made a Massive Error’ – Ultra-Marathoner Who Took Third Place In Race Used Car For 2.5 Miles

Photo Credit: Kai-Otto Melau / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Kai-Otto Melau / Getty Images

One of the world’s top ultra-marathon runners has come under fire for cheating during the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 50-mile race. Joasia Zakrzewski, 47, used a car to transit a 2.5-mile stretch of the route, reportedly gaining a 25-minute advantage over her competitors.

Marathoners running down a road
Photo Credit: Miguel A Amutio / Unsplash / Free to Use

The race, which occurred on April 7, saw the participation of nearly 400 runners. Zakrzewski, a Scottish ultra-marathoner living in Australia, came in third, receiving a wooden trophy and medal. She also posed for pictures.

Following the race, Wayne Drinkwater, director of GB Ultras, was informed of a runner who’d gained an “unsporting, competitive advantage during a section of the event.” This prompted him and other race organizers to look into the situation further.

Tracking data subsequently showed Zakrzewski had completed a single mile in just one minute, 40 seconds – the speed of an older vehicle – meaning she’d likely gained an advantage of as much as 25 minutes. The same data also showed she’d followed the main road, as opposed to the race route, for a portion of the marathon.

People running a marathon
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According to Zakrzewski, she became lost toward the halfway mark of the race. Around the same time, her leg began to cause her trouble and she started limping. When the pain became too much to handle, she accepted a ride from a friend, who drover her 2.5 miles to the next checkpoint.

The ultra-marathoner, in an interview with BBC Scotland, claims she approached a marshal and offered to pull out of the race. However, she was told she would “hate” herself if she stopped, which prompted her to “carry on in a non-competitive way. I made sure I didn’t overtake the runner in front when I saw her as I didn’t want to interfere with her race.”

Zakrzewski has since come out to say she made a “massive error” and that her actions were “not malicious” in nature, adding that she should have handed the trophy back.

She claims her mistake was the result of jet lag and feeling ill, as she’d flown in from Australia just the night before the marathon. “I hold my hands up, I should have handed them back and not had pictures done but I was feeling unwell and spaced out and not thinking clearly,” she told BBC Scotland.

However, Drinkwater claims Zakrzewski never attempted “to make us aware of what had happened,” nor did she “give us the opportunity to correct the results or return the third place trophy during the course of the subsequent seven days.”

He added, “None of our event team in question, with written statements to confirm this, were aware that Joasia had vehicle transport at any time during the race until we received information after the race from another competitor. If we had been made aware during the race, disqualification from the race would have been immediate at that point.”

Third place has since been given to Mel Sykes, who tweeted, “Great news for me but really bad news for sportsmanship.”

Zakrzewski has also publicly apologized to her fellow competitor, saying, “I’m an idiot and want to apologise to Mel. It wasn’t malicious, it was miscommunication. I would never purposefully cheat and this was not a target race, but I don’t want to make excuses. Mel didn’t get the glory at the finish and I’m really sorry she didn’t get that.”

Overhead view of people running a marathon
Photo Credit: Michael Carruth / Unsplash / Free to Use

The ultra-marathoner has since been disqualified from the race and the matter has been referred to the appropriate governing bodies for possible further action. A number of her competitors have also called for her to be banned from future events.

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Joasia Zakrzewski has won a number of ultra marathons over the course of her career, and has set a number of records. Among her most notable races were the 48-hour Taipei Ultramarathon in Taiwan and a 24-hour marathon in Australia in 2020. She also represented Team Scotland at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, achieving 14th place in her race.


Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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