Confusion and controversy threatened to steal the feel good from the 13th annual Quad-Cities Marathon, but race director Joe Moreno and his committee opted not to let that happen.
"We had a record number of entries, a course record," Moreno said in outlining Sunday positives that included 4,841 runners across the John Deere Commons starting line and a winning run of 2:16.29 by pre-race men's favorite Leonard Mucheru that eclipsed the former standard set in 2006 by fellow Kenyan Jynocel Basweti.
"This is our best year. We're not going to let something like this blemish it. So we made a decision. Everybody is happy with the decision."
The "this" was the apparent race-course confusion just past the 19th mile of the 26.2-mile course that cost third-place finisher Mark Chepses and fifth-place finisher John Maina Njoroge at least a minute. The decision was to award both Kenyans second-place money ($1,500) along with actual second-place finisher Ketema Nigusse of Ethiopia.
All three runners also received a $500 bonus for finishing faster than 2:22:00, something Nigusse and Chepses would have collected anyway since the top four men's finishers all exceeded that standard.
In the end, the decision cost the Marathon $2,000, a generous act given that the runners ultimately were responsible for knowing the course.
Chepses and Njoroge apparently became confused when a pace-setting motorcycle veered left, as it was supposed to, on the Arsenal viaduct, with the course-following pace car and leader Mucheru well out of sight. The Kenyans actually steered right, as they were supposed to, toward the bridge to Rock Island, but then stopped and returned to their original point of confusion. Only when Nigusse ran by did they follow.
Marathon elite race coordinator Ian Frink said other races, notably the Miami Marathon, have taken a harder line in similar instances, but said the local committee took into account the Kenyans' unfamiliarity with the race course and the English language.
Too, Moreno indicated the extra money can be considered a down payment on the Q-C race's promising future.
"We take into consideration the fact these elites chose the Quad-City Marathon and are here," he said. "We want to treat them fairly."
This year's field was one of the best in the race's history, particularly after Mucheru, a winner of nine previous marathons worldwide, joined the race last week. With a previous best marathon run of 2:09.37, he hit the Q-C course with Basweti's record and the $1,000 bonus that came with breaking it in mind.
Mucheru, 32, ran the last 14 miles of the race alone after finding the early pace too slow for his liking.
"Just before the half point, I decided I had to do something very strong to hit 2:16," he said after besting the old mark by 7 seconds. "Finishing under the course record and winning has given me a lot of positives."
The women's race was won by Russian Elena Orlova, who also was the women's Masters Division winner as a freshly turned 40-year-old.
Q-C area runners and natives dominated the day's half-marathon and 5K races - with Ben Lloyd of Davenport winning the men's 5K in 16:11, Rock Island's Krista Vrombaut claiming the women's half in 1:23.41, Bettendorf's Jane Wheeler taking the women's 5K in 19:52 and former Geneseoan Bryan Glass defending his men's half-marathon title with a personal best time of 1:09.25.
Glass, who now lives in Springfield, Ill., said he ran the race with the recent death of a Geneseo friend's mother and Monday's 31st anniversary of his father, Joseph's, death as motivation.
"This means a lot," he said. "To have all these people out here and people who still recognize my name ... I'm a Geneseo native and I am always going to be a Quad-Citian, as far as I'm concerned."