Sometimes a major improvement is just too hard to believe, particularly when technology adds some cold hard numbers.
Tabatha Hamilton was disqualified as the women's winner of the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon held this past Saturday. The 31-year-old Trenton, Ga., resident crossed the final timing mat at 2 hours, 55 minutes, 39 seconds (gun time) but had crossed the mat at 13.1 miles at 2:06.51, according to the Chattanooga Track Club.
Race officials determined that it was impossible for Hamilton to cover the last half of the marathon in 49 minutes, even though she repeatedly asserted that she ran all 26.2 miles.
She was removed from the official results Sunday night, and Lillian Gilmer of Nashville was informed that she was the race winner and not the women's runner-up and masters winner. The 41-year-old Gilmer finished the race in 3:21:33.
"We will order another award for Lillian, and she will be mailing us the masters award, which now will go to Jennifer Funk (of Signal Mountain)," co-race director Sherilyn Johnson said Monday night.
Early Monday afternoon, Hamilton told the Times Free Press that she completed the full marathon and the disqualification was a mistake. She disputed the reported time for her first 13.1 miles, saying that her husband was looking at his watch as she ran by and called out to her then that she was at 1:36:51.
That still would leave about 79 minutes to run the final 13.1 miles, or a pace of about six minutes per mile. Hamilton ran four marathons in 2009 and 2011 in times ranging from 4:25:08 to 4:48:47, that latter one at Chickamauga, but running databases show none faster than that. In fact, her marathon times since 2011 have been above five hours, according to the databases.
Yet Hamilton told two reporters immediately after Saturday's race that her 2:54:21 chip time was a personal record by "six or seven minutes" -- not the hour and a half it would have been.
"I called and talked to her tonight, and she told me that she ran the full marathon," Johnson said Monday night. "I told her the timing data does not support that she ran a full marathon; therefore, the track club's decision stands and she remains disqualified, and I hope we can move forward."
Johnson said she knew nothing of the controversy until Sunday morning, when she started opening emails of people questioning Hamilton's time, but that one timing official had questioned Hamilton at the race site.
"Saturday was a long, full day and I was exhausted when I got home," Johnson said, "so I didn't look at any emails then."
Sunday afternoon, she and other officials got together and looked at the timing information, "and everything we looked at showed she did not complete the marathon."
Johnson emphasized that Hamilton was not singled out, that "our people looked very carefully at at least the first 12 finishers to make sure the numbers looked right."
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.