Cleveland Marathon ends with clothing controversy

Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon logoIt wasn’t quite a clothing malfunction, but clothing did play into a controversy surrounding the May 20 Cleveland Marathon.

Daniel Mesfun of Eritrea was ruled the unofficial winner of the men’s marathon of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon shortly after finishing with 2:16:33. But second-place finisher, Philemon Terer, pointed out that Mesfun wore a t-shirt over his bib number for most of the race and may have broken a rule. Third-place finisher Abraham Chelanga also protested.

USA Track and Field rule 143.4 (b), Athletic Attire, says, “If one bib is provided, it must be worn visibly on the front.”

At stake was prize money. The first place finisher for the men’s full marathon receives $3,000. Second place is $1,000 and third is $500.

Terer led most of the race and said because he couldn’t see the bib number, he didn’t know whether Mesfun was in the full or the half-marathon, which were run simultaneously. Terer finished in 2:16:55.

Mesfun said he wore the shirt over his singlet and bib because he was cold and was cramping in his mid-section. He took the shirt off a few hundred feet from the finish line.

There was no question Mesfun ran the full marathon and crossed every timing mat along the course. Spotters along the course reaffirmed he completed the 26.2-mile run. The question was whether he followed USATF rules.

As race director, Jack Staph had the final say. After three days of review, Staph ruled May 22 that Mesfun was indeed the winner and did not wear the t-shirt to deceive anyone. Terer also withdrew his complaint, saying Mesfun was the clear winner.

Both Mesfun and Terer will be invited back as elite runners to the 2019 Cleveland Marathon.