Belfast marathon organisers must make 'big gesture' to runners who went extra 0.3 miles, says angry mum
A Belfast City Marathon runner has slammed organisers for getting the basics wrong as she urged them to make "a big gesture" to the running community after it emerged the course was 0.3 miles too long.
Siobhan Grant (34) spent months preparing for her eighth race on Sunday with only one goal spurring her on as she clocked up 600 miles in training - a desire to beat her personal best.
But the Castlewellan woman was left outraged to discover that "a small hiccup" had meant the route was almost half a kilometre longer than it was supposed to be which resulted in finish times being readjusted.
"When people ask me what time I got I am in the ridiculous position of having to say, 'Which one do you want?'" she said.
"The fundamental aspects of a marathon that you have to get right is the time and distance - nothing else matters. Yet they got it wrong."
The primary school teacher knew something was amiss within minutes of setting off along the new route.
"I was 0.4 miles out within no time," she said.
"I tried to put it out of my mind but my watch stayed 0.4 miles ahead the whole way round.
"I actually started thinking someone had come out the night before and moved the mile markers for a laugh."
The mum-of-two said the mental and physical pressure was unbearable at times due to the blunder which made international headlines.
"My watch was telling me that I was at a mile marker but it was nowhere in sight," she recalled.
"The impact of that can't be underestimated.
"I kept thinking my pace needed to be seriously adjusted and couldn't figure out how to do it."
Mrs Grant claimed that many first time runners and people seeking a 'good for age' time to qualify for world majors have been left sorely disappointed.
"The wounds are still raw for runners who missed out," she added.
"I do have sympathy for the organisers, but this was a grievous mistake," Mrs Grant said.
"It should have been checked, double checked and triple checked. An awful lot of people will have been completely demoralised and put off.
"I want the Belfast marathon to be great - it has so much potential to rival other major cities."
Mrs Grant also complained about long queues of exhausted runners, including her husband Michael (34), seeking to get essential items from drop boxes after the race.
"There were people shaking and some people's lips were turning blue," she said. "Some diabetics couldn't access their medical supplies."
The disillusioned competitor has vented her frustration in an open letter to marathon organisers which has been viewed by over 4,000 people online.
"A lot of them agree with me," she said. "That's sad because the new route and shift to a Sunday was fantastic and churches were amazing but all that is overshadowed. You can't overlook all the positive things but at the end of the day a marathon is supposed to be 26.2 miles."
Organising committee chairman David Seaton later confirmed that around 460 metres (0.3 miles) were added to the officially measured course due to "human error".
He promised the "small hiccup" of a lead car diverting runners from the official route will never happen again.
Mrs Grant pleaded with organisers to waive or significantly discount the fee for next year to ensure those affected return.
"They need to make a big gesture," she added. "It's not good enough just to blame it on a 'small hiccup'."
Belfast City Marathon said all issues will be discussed at its upcoming debriefing meeting.