When you visit the Heartland Marathon Homepage, you are greeted with the following statement:
No other details were available publicly. I have been in contact with one of the runners involved and with race officials, who provided more detail behind the disqualifications.
Chuck Engle crossed the finish line first. He was disqualified under USATF Rule 163 6.
Engel was disqualified from the unofficial results of the 2018 Heartland Marathon in accordance with USATF Rule 163 6. (c), which reads as follows: “In any track event of 20,000 meters or more or in any road race, a competitor may leave the marked course with the permission and under the control of a judge or other authorized official, provided that by going off or returning to the course the athlete does not lessen the distance to be covered.” Mr. Engel states he was requested to deviate from the official course by an Iowa Department of Natural Resources employee because the trail was flooded. The DNR employee was not a race official and there was no flooding or other trail emergency in the area, and Mr. Engel was the only runner to allegedly be requested to deviate from the official course. Mr. Engel stated following the race that after traversing down the unauthorized detour, he turned back but was unable to locate the DNR employee. Mr. Engel then doubled back and re-entered the official course approximately one-half mile ahead of where he departed from the official course. Mr. Engel did not return to the point of departure from the official course so therefore it is our conclusion that he did not cover the entire official course. Rule 163 7. provides: “7. To be considered a finisher, a competitor must complete the race.” Mr. Engel did not cover the entire official course and therefore did not complete the race. Our decision to disqualify Mr. Engel will not be reversed.
Chuck is well-known within the marathon community as ‘Marathon Junkie’. Chuck holds the world record for most marathon wins. He has won 206 marathons.
I’ve been in contact with Chuck throughout this process. I have found him to be upfront and willing to answer all questions I had. In fact, I first heard about the disqualifications through a post that he made on Facebook.
Looking at his track from the portion in question, (around mile 12) the route Chuck ran was about 0.1 miles shorter than if he had remained on the official course. The arrow indicates where Chuck went off course.
As far as being the only one, the lead runner had a cyclist right with him. At the point where I left the course I was about 5 minutes ahead of 3rd place and I was unable to see first place due to corners. Again, when I was waved down, the course was not marked and I followed instructions. As I approached the next water stop, I told the oldest gentleman standing there that I was directed this way by a law enforcement officer. There was plenty of time to walk back and certainly radio to let them know that it was an error on their part to divert runners and thus it was corrected easily by the time any other runner passed by that point of the course.
The response from the race seemed to indicate that he cut off 1/2 mile. This is not the case – and any advantage he gained would have been negligible. While the distance he covered was less than those that remained on the course, the detour took him through a grassy field, and his Strava file indicates he did slightly slow down on this portion.
I agree, that if Chuck was the only competitor rerouted, and that he did not complete the official course, that he should be removed from the results.
If he was redirected as he claims, there is nothing else Chuck could have done. If he ignored the direction of a person he thought was a ‘law enforcement officer’ he would risk disqualification. The big mystery is why the DNR employee rerouted Chuck and no one else. At the time, Chuck says he was in 2nd place, out of sight of the first place runner.
On Chuck’s Facebook page, the course certifier chimed in:
The issue was not with the course markings, it is Chuck’s claim that he was redirected. I asked Chuck about the comment that he waited:
“Yes. On the trip back the water stop directed us to the lower section. The section that leads to a paved path up near the road is where I was directed through. It was a recently cut grass path. It all seemed to make sense. Flooding in the area, a great race that knew to redirect the path. I felt like they had just extended the out and back portion in at least two spots on the course. My watch still maintained even mile splits throughout the course.”
“There is no possible reason that I would leave a paved path and run about 50m through a grass path without specific instructions from someone whom I believed to be an official.”
The statement that Chuck waited seems like it’s being used against him. A runner that cuts a significant portion of the course, may wait before re-entering the course in order to make their splits more believable. In this case, Chuck would have waited for a longer period of time than he saved by taking the slightly shorter route.
I will reiterate, that I do agree with Chuck being removed from the results. I do not believe there is evidence that would indicate that Chuck tried to gain an unfair advantage intentionally. The statements from the officials seem to indicate that they doubt Chuck’s story. Personally, I feel that if he were going to intentionally cut the course, that there were more likely spots in which he would have done so.
The original results for the top 3 runners were as follow:
- Chuck Engle 2:59:35
- Timothy Fry 3:02:00
- Miguel Carreon 3:07:38
At most, Chuck would have gained about 50 seconds by running the slightly shorter route. He still would have beaten Fry. He would have beaten Carreon by over 6 minutes.
Timothy Fry disqualification
Per the race official:
Mr. Timothy Fry was disqualified for what is known as pacing. Two credible observers reported that a runner not officially participating in the event entered the official course more than once, ran with Mr. Fry for a number of miles each time and then exited the course. This is in violation of Rule 144 ASSISTANCE TO ATHLETES. The applicable paragraph of Rule 144 states as follows:
Rule 144 ASSISTANCE TO ATHLETES
- The following shall be considered examples of assistance:
(a) Pacing in running or walking events by persons not participating in the event, by competitors lapped or about to be lapped, or by any kind of technical device other than those permitted under Rule 144.4(d).
Engle had seen Fry running with the unregistered runner.
Whenever runners are disqualified, it is unfortunate. When the top two finishers are disqualified, that is not publicity any race, or runner wants. I feel in the case of Engle, it was most likely the result of a miscommunication. I don’t believe that Chuck ‘cheated’. I think the race should acknowledge the possibility that Chuck is sincere in his explanation.
By stating that Chuck was seen waiting and checking his watch seemed to be an attempt to provide evidence against Chuck. However, given the very small section of course that was ‘cut’, any time waiting would more than offset the time gained by cutting. He did not cut 1/2 mile off the course, he cut approximately 1/10th of a mile.
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