A Moray road race was thrown into chaos yesterday a dozen runners were forced to run an extra four miles after being led in the wrong direction.
The winner of the Glen Moray Marathon eventually completed more than 30 miles after marshalls directed him along the wrong route.
Connell Drummond, from Kilmarnock, had a clear lead over the pack but had to battle back from 16th place following the navigation error.
Instead of heading away from Elgin the competitors almost ended up back in the town when the escort car realised the mistake.
Last night organisers explained they felt “physically sick” after being told about the error over radio – initially fearing the entire field had taken a wrong turn.
Mr Drummond said: “I was only about three miles into it and I could see the lead car was slowing down – I knew something wasn’t right.
“I was just jogging on the spot and he shouted out the marshal had sent him the wrong way and I better turn round, which was good advice I suppose.”
It is understood that a local entrant following further down the field realised the mistake and prevented all 55 runners becoming lost.
On his way back to the track Mr Drummond passed other runners and told them to follow him following the blunder.
Co-organiser Paul Rogan said a miscommunication between a marshal and the escort car resulted in the wrong-turn at a T-junction near Mosstowie Primary School.
He said: “It looks like by the time they’ve realised the mistake about a dozen runners have gone the wrong way. It’s very frustrating.
“Everyone has taken it in good spirits though. It was human error, these things can happen.”
A contingency plan was put in place, giving runners the option of a short-cut to get to the finish after running 26 miles.
Entrants at the finish line who declined the shorter route joked it was good preparation for an ultra-marathon.
Mr Drummond was not put off by the extra distance and fought back through the field to win the race despite with a time of 3hours 16minutes and 11seconds – 35 minutes slower than his personal best set earlier this year.
He said: “I was annoyed at the time but these things happen. I just got my head down and battled back through.”