When Meredith Fitzmaurice started running in a half-marathon in Ontario, CA, she thought she was doing exactly that -- running a half marathon.
But when the run seemed to grow longer and longer with no end in sight, the 34-year-old began to suspect that something was wrong. Indeed, Fitzmaurice had strayed from the route early in the race, and was now competing in the full Run for Heroes Marathon -- all 26.2 miles of it.
Said Fitzmaurice to the Ottawa Citizen, "I'm looking at the time and wondering where the finish line is. Once I realized what I had done, I figured, well, I'll just run 20 miles … and call it a day."
Instead of running just 20 miles, she made it to the end, and did so in a speedy time of 3:11:48. This time earned her the top place for women, and tenth place overall.
Said Fitzmaurice, “I didn’t even realize I was the first female until people started yelling at me and high-fiving me. Once I crossed the finish line and realized the magnitude of what I had done, I started crying.”
Before the wrong turn, her initial goal was to enter the run as a trial, and then compete in Detroit to earn a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon next year. Based on her performance on Sunday, she already qualifies for the Boston Event.
A race official on a bicycle followed Fitzmaurice for the final 10 kilometers of the marathon, and she credits his support for her win.
“When I crossed the finish line I saw my friend and I started to cry and then I hugged the guy on the bike,” she said, “Without him I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Prior to the event, Fitzmaurice had never run the distance of a full marathon. She said, “I had only ever run 20 miles, but I think at that point the adrenalin just pulled me through. I just kept thinking you can do this, just get it done. The last couple miles were really tough.”