Quad Cities Marathon: Controversy and competition


Photo by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash

Road races are a popular activity across the globe.

Alyssa Smith, Social Media Manager

The Quad Cities Marathon brings in runners from across the globe, some just wanting to compete along the scenic route, others hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon and the few elite looking to bring home a first place finish. 

Controversy surrounded the 2021 race after the two runners in the lead were disqualified.  The two Kenyan runners Elijah Mwangangi Saolo and Luke Kibet followed a volunteer cyclist who missed a turn, ultimately causing their disqualification. This put Illinois runner Tyler Pence in the lead. Pence ran a time of 2:15:06 and went on to become the first American winner since 2001. 

There are many parts at play when it comes to marathons like these; one important factor is the timing of all the athletes. End Result is the company responsible for the race timing of not only the Quad Cities Marathon, but many other road races. Adam Tisue is the senior account manager and the Bettendorf office manager for End Result. 

When the lead runners reached a checkpoint much faster than possible, End Result took notice. “The two lead runners passed through the 20 mile split much faster than we would have anticipated, which raised my attention. Shortly after that, the race director informed me that he was aware the two lead runners errantly followed a bike pacer,” Tisue said.

Many would be quick to assume that Pence’s win is due to the mishap of the lead runners. However he outran the last marathon winner’s time by two minutes. It is not safe to say his win was sheer luck. 

Pence is an elite runner and was not far behind the leaders. “There was no guarantee that if the two runners in front did take the correct course, they would have finished first and second,” Tisue said.

Even then, some have questioned whether or not Pence deserved it, all details considered. 

Pence told The Quad City Times, “I was about 20 seconds back so I kind of saw it happening but I’m not going to shout. It’s not my job. This caused an outpour of backlash calling out Pence for poor sportsmanship. Pence was featured on the podcast “The Download with DP” and explained his side of the story unfiltered. 

He went on the podcast to clear the air, saying that the media and the public had failed to realize that 20 seconds is two football field lengths, and he was too far back to alert the men. What the media had failed to mention is that Pence did what he could and alerted the volunteer biker that was riding near him that the biker ahead had missed the turn. 

It is apparent that Pence prides himself on being a coach for the University of Illinois Springfield. He looks to model good sportsmanship for his team and continued to explain on the podcast that this was not a case of deliberate deviance on his part, but instead just a fluke that he could not help. 

Disqualifications and mishaps are not uncommon at races across the country. “Unfortunately I have seen this several times before. Accidents happen, and in the case of the two lead runners at the Quad Cities Marathon, it was an unfortunate accident,” Tisue explained.

For many, competing in races and marathons is all for good fun, but for some like Saolo, it is their way of life. Saolo is in America on a tourist visa racing to support his family back in Kenya. So this loss is not only upsetting as an athlete, but also as a father and a husband. According To Saolo´s Gofundme, he was still compensated $2000. 

The whole situation tugged on many people’s heart strings, and many sympathized with Saolo, flooding his Gofundme with donations to further his compensation. Saolo works endlessly to try to establish himself as a world class runner even after setbacks like injuries and the mishap at the marathon.

Although some are still looking to point the blame at someone or something, most agree that this was just an unfortunate mishap. In the end, Pence demonstrated an incredible athletic performance to earn first place, and Saolo will still be able to provide for his family.