Stockholm marathon scandal as three leaders run wrong way leaving them ‘unhappy’

Saturday's Stockholm marathon descended into farce when the three leaders were sent in the wrong direction.

Felix Kirwa, Merhawi Kesete and Anbesa Tesfaye were all going great guns when they arrived in Sodermalm, but were soon left plagued by confusion. They tore off in the wrong direction before turning around with their arms in the air, asking race officials what was going on.

Eventually, they turned around and continued racing, and it was Kenyan Kirwa who later broke away from a small pack of five athletes to build a big lead and secure his sixth competitive marathon title in 2:11:07. However, any hopes he had of a course record, or beating his personal best of 2:06:13, had already been scuppered.

Initially, race management blamed the bizarre incident on the motorcycle police, with David Fridell, operations manager, telling Sport Bladet: "There is a small passage where our urban cars can not keep up and then the police motorcycles that are at the very front must guide the elite runners correctly – but for some reason they go wrong there."

However, he was soon forced to retract that accusation, admitting: "I understand that the police feel rushed and disappointed, it is our responsibility," he said.

"It is not the case that the police showed wrong. The motorcycles that were seen riding there did so to pick up the runners. It is rather a communication miss between the city car and the runners.

"It has been too close to the runners so when it stopped the runners did not realise that it was waiting for them there. The police should just pay tribute here."

Sports commentator Lennart Julin commented: "We can not say they are happy. Unfortunately, the chances of the track record disappeared there." The women's race was won by Ethiopian debutant Tsige Haileslase who clocked 2.31.48.

The marathon is categorised as a Bronze Label Road Race by World Athletics and has been running annually since 1979. The only exception came in 2020, when it was cancelled amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

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