Joasia Zakrzewski: Mel Sykes awarded third in Manchester to Liverpool ultramarathon after car cheating scandal

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A friend of the runner told the BBC Zakrzewski is ‘genuinely sorry’ and felt unwell before and during the race

Scottish ultramarathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski has been disqualified from a competition after she was discovered to have used a car during a race.

The 47-year-old Dumfries resident placed third in the GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool race on 7 April 2023, but mapping data later showed she had completed a mile in one minute and 40 seconds. Dutch middle-distance runner Sifan Hassan currently holds the women’s world record for running a mile, with a time of four minutes and 12 seconds.

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It is assumed that Zakrzewski drove 2.5 miles in a car, instead of completing the distance on foot, with Wayne Drinkwater, the director of the GB Ultras race, telling the BBC it was “very disappointing”.

“The issue has been investigated and, having reviewed the data from our race tracking system, GPX data, statements provided from our event team, other competitors and from the participant herself, we can confirm that a runner has now been disqualified from the event having taken vehicle transport during part of the route,” Drinkwater said.

GPX stands for “GPS Exchange Format” and refers to a file format that is used to store GPS (Global Positioning System) data. GPX data can include information about waypoints, routes and tracks, as well as additional information such as time, elevation and speed.

“The matter is now with the TRA (Trail Running Association) and, in turn, UK Athletics (UKA) as the regulatory bodies,” added Drinkwater.

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(Photo: Scottish Athletics)(Photo: Scottish Athletics)
(Photo: Scottish Athletics) | Scottish Athletics

Third place has now been awarded to Holmfirth-based runner Mel Sykes, who said on Twitter that it was “great news” for her, but “really bad news for sportsmanship”.

“The sad thing in all this is that it completely takes the piss out of the race organisers, fellow competitors and fair sport,” she added. “How can someone who knows they have cheated cross a finish line, collect a medal/trophy and have their photos taken?!”

Who is Joasia Zakrzewski?

Adrian Stott, a friend of the runner, told the BBC Zakrzewski is “genuinely sorry” and felt unwell before and during the race. “The race didn’t go to plan. She said she was feeling sick and tired on the race and wanted to drop out,” he said.

“She has co-operated fully with the race organisers’ investigations, giving them a full account of what happened. She genuinely feels sorry for any upset caused.”

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Zakrzewski was born in Poland in 1977 and moved to the UK in 2002, and is known for her performances in some of the toughest ultramarathons in the world, including the Marathon des Sables and the West Highland Way Race.

She finished 14th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon in Scotland, and has set records in the UK over 100 and 200 miles. She has won numerous ultramarathons, including the 2012 West Highland Way Race, the 2014 Comrades Marathon and the 2016 Anglo Celtic Plate 100K.

Zakrzewski is also a member of the British ultramarathon team and has represented Great Britain at the IAU 100K World Championships.

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