Meredith Fitzmaurice never dreamed she’d win Sunday’s Run for Heroes Marathon in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada. Especially since the Belle River runner planned to run the half marathon and not the full 26.2-mile race. But a wrong turn sent her onto the marathon course. “I just run with my watch, so I was watching my time since I planned to do my half in under 1:28,” she said. “I was doing the race as training for my first full marathon in Detroit. But I’m looking at the time and wondering where the finish line is.” Fitzmaurice, 34, asked one of the bike officials on the course where the turn was for the half marathon, although she admits by that point she pretty much figured out what she had done.
“Once I realized what I had done, I figured well I’ll just run 20 miles and use it as a long run and call it a day,” she said. But as she headed back from the turn-around in River Canard she started to count people ahead of her. She realized there were only nine men ahead, and no women. She asked the official on the bike if she finished the marathon, even though she was signed up for the half, if it would count as a finish and, more importantly, would she be able to use her time as a Boston Marathon qualifier. “The official said he was going to ask the race director and he’d be back,” she said. “So as I’m running I’m wondering if my race is going to count, I’m thinking about my friend who is at the finish line probably wondering where I am since I have the keys to the car. And my neighbour, who was going to be waiting for me at the finish line. I knew they were going to be worried about me. “
The bike official finally came back and said the race director, Chris Uszynski, would honour her race as a completion in the full distance. “While I was waiting for a response I wasn’t sure what to do,” she said. “I felt really good but I was scared because I hadn’t planned to run 26.2 miles that day and was worried if it didn’t count that I would burn myself out for Detroit.” So Fitzmaurice decided to continue on. She asked the official on the bike if he’d keep her company. As Fitzmaurice got near the finish line at the arena on Meloche Road the feeling was “surreal.” People were high-fiving her and telling her she was the first woman and to keep going. “I had only ever run 20 miles, but I think at that point the adrenalin just pulled me through,” she said. “I just kept thinking you can do this, just get it done. The last couple miles were really tough.”
When Fitzmaurice crossed the finish line in a time of 3:11:48 she was the first woman, 10th overall and had qualified for Boston.
“I thought I was only running a half marathon so I really gave it out there,” she said. “If I knew I was going to be running the full marathon I probably wouldn’t have ran so fast. So maybe it was a good thing.” And, as for making the wrong turn, Fitzmaurice said when she got to the corner it was pretty quiet and there weren’t a lot of runners around her. She blames the mistake on the fact she had her headphones on and was definitely in a zone. “I just missed it,” she said. “I didn’t do it on purpose. When I crossed the finish line I saw my friend and I started to cry and then I hugged the guy on the bike. Without him I wouldn’t have been able to do it. This was my first one and even though my family was disappointed they weren’t there to see it, maybe this was meant to be. I was alone and maybe this was how I was meant to do it.”
There's an audio interview with Ms Fitzmaurice here.