'I should have handed it back': Medal-winning ultra-marathon runner breaks silence after travelling part of race by car

19 April 2023, 11:42 | Updated: 19 April 2023, 13:22

Ultra-marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski claimed a bronze medal after the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 50-mile race
Ultra-marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski claimed a bronze medal after the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 50-mile race. Picture: social media

By Emma Soteriou

A medal-winning British ultra-marathon runner who used a car to drive part of a 50-mile ultra has broken her silence after being disqualified.

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Joasia Zakrzewski, 47, finished third in the 2023 GB Ultras earlier this month but has since been accused of travelling two-and-a-half miles of the race by car.

Mapping data found she covered a mile in just one minute and 40 seconds and reached a top speed of 35mph – faster than Usain Bolt at his best.

She has since been stripped of the result, with the case referred to UK Athletics.

Dr Zakrewski said: "When I got to the checkpoint I told them I was pulling out and that I had been in the car, and they said 'you will hate yourself if you stop'.

"I agreed to carry on in a non-competitive way. I made sure I didn't overtake the runner in front when I saw her as I didn't want to interfere with her race."

She added: "I made a massive error accepting the trophy and should have handed it back.

"I was tired and jetlagged and felt sick."I hold my hands up, I should have handed them back and not had pictures done but I was feeling unwell and spaced out and not thinking clearly."

Dr Zakrzewski agreed to the lift as she was feeling "sick" having flown in from Australia the night before, friends claimed.

They said she was "genuinely sorry for any upset caused" over the incident.

Ultra-marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski claimed a bronze medal after the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 50-mile race
Ultra-marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski claimed a bronze medal after the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 50-mile race. Picture: social media
Race data Dr Zakrzewski has reached 'super-human' speed
Race data Dr Zakrzewski has reached 'super-human' speed. Picture: social media

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Dr Zakrzewski, who works as a GP in Dunfries and has raced for Scotland and Great Britain in various championships, agreed to the lift as she was feeling "sick" having flown in from Australia the night before, friends claimed.

The medal for third place has instead been awarded to NHS podiatrist Mel Sykes, who took to Twitter to slam Dr Zakrzewski as a "cheat".

"Great news for me - but really bad news for sportsmanship," she said.

Later discussing how her rival was caught, she added: "Too many people noticed things were amiss and contacted the race organisers separately so they had to launch an investigation."

Data uploaded to sports app Strava by Dr Zakrzewski and shared by Ms Sykes revealed she allegedly "hadn’t taken the race route", instead opting to follow the main road.

She also claimed there was a section where Dr Zakrzewski's performance figures "didn’t add up".

Dr Zakrzewski took the world record for the most miles run by a woman in 48 hours just weeks before the incident but critics are now suggesting she be banned from racing completely.

Scottish Athletics said it was "aware of the issue".

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