Marathon sabotage is mostly a myth, similar in scope to voter fraud — allegations of which are equally unfounded. But it does happen from time to time. Normally, those who set out to sabotage a race will choose a mundane tactic like leading runners off-course to keep them from finishing. Of course, there have been a few instances during which terrorism has sought to injure or maim a large number of people viewing a marathon — like what happened in Boston.
The former strategy was employed by an individual during the “Sai Kung 50,” which takes place in Hong Kong along a popular trail.
Vlad Ixel was one of those runners who were simply trying to finish and have fun in the process. But someone decided to move trail markers to lead participants off-course. “This was really deliberate sabotage,” Ixel said. “I’ve seen sabotage before but not this bad. It must have been someone who really hates this race.”
Changing the path of a large marathon actually takes some planning. In this case, markers were moved, cables between those markers were cut, and the direction of some arrows pointing runners in the right direction was changed. At least two other runners — Adrien Konareff and Bin Lang — were put off course because of the sabotage.
In some cases, the runners themselves are accused of misconduct, such as when one man groped a TV reporter on live TV in 2019. He was quickly apprehended and pleaded guilty to sexual assault. It wasn’t the smartest thing for a man to do on camera during the era of #MeToo.
Personal injury lawyer John Hensley wrote, “Some marathon organizers include a release clause that holds the participants liable for any injury they may incur while running the race, whether due to physical limitations, damaged paths, or bystander intervention.”
Release clauses are becoming more common as contestants try to sue marathon organizers more and more often. Other marathon organizers simply purchase liability insurance for the day of the race in case of lawsuit.
There are only certain cases during which an organizer might be liable for a racer’s injury, such as when a race is set to run over dangerous terrain. That doesn’t mean you can sue for an injury incurred during a run over rough terrain on a trail race, but it might mean you have legal options if, say, you are injured after tripping over a pothole along a city route.
Contact marathon organizers and local authorities if you suspect sabotage, which is illegal. To reduce the opportunity for injury, take note of the weather and beware of other racers. Many accidents occur at the beginning of a race, when runners set out in close quarters. Give yourself enough time at the start to separate from the pack. Make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared for the burdens of a long-distance marathon race. Build yourself up gradually instead of taking on the race all at once. The most common type of injuries during a marathon are overuse injuries, such as tendonitis.