Durham runner veers off marathon course, wins race
Posted April 17, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Instead of crossing the finish line with excitement, Heidi Bretscher, of Durham, crossed the finish line of Sunday's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon fearful and frustrated.
"When you cross the finish line, you are normally really excited," she said. "I wasn't excited, I was just really nervous. I thought I was going to get in trouble."
Bretscher, 28, said she was on pace to beat her personal record when she, and the two cyclists who were accompanying her, missed an unmarked turn for mile 19.
"Eventually it became clear that we were off track," she said. "I didn't know what to do."
That was when she quickly began the journey of getting back on course.
At mile 19, Bretscher was leading the women's race by about 30 minutes.
"I ran all around Lake Johnson and came out on a road," she said. "So I ran up the road and I found a police officer. About 15 minutes went by and he was trying to figure out what he could do. Eventually he gave me a ride, but back to mile 17."
Since she had already passed mile 17, another officer gave her a ride to mile 22.5.
"At that point I had to start running again, but it had been about a half-hour since I had stopped," she said.
Bretscher jogged in place to stay warm, but said it was really hard to start running again. She said she was in the car with the second police officer when she heard a report that the winning men were crossing the finish line.
"I knew I should have been really close to the finish at that point," she said. "I still was really determined to win because I won last year and I really wanted to win again. I passed several males in the last few miles of the race."
Despite her detour, Bretscher managed to be the first woman and third runner overall to finish the race with a time of 3:06:59, nearly 10 minutes ahead of the next woman to cross the finish line.
"It's disappointing not being able to finish the race and see how fast I could've run," she said. "I think there is a really good chance you will see me at Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh again."
Race officials said as soon as they learned of Bretscher's confusion, the course was fixed and crew members were alerted.
“They were extremely kind to me and did the best with what they were given,” Bretscher said.
"We want to treat our runners the best. They expect a well marked and accurate course. We dropped the ball and are going to make things right," a race spokesperson said in a statement.