Runner wins a race especially for five

PUBLISHED: 10:09 08 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:03 31 May 2010

John Tyszkiewicz, on the left, escorted by police

John Tyszkiewicz, on the left, escorted by police

A RUNNER from Saffron Walden found himself on the winner s podium at the Beirut Marathon in bizarre circumstances. John Tyszkiewicz, 45, of Peaslands Road, crossed the finishing line in first place after the event, which had been postponed due to the assa

A RUNNER from Saffron Walden found himself on the winner's podium at the Beirut Marathon in bizarre circumstances.

John Tyszkiewicz, 45, of Peaslands Road, crossed the finishing line in first place after the event, which had been postponed due to the assassination of a Lebanese government minister, was resurrected especially for him and four other runners at the very last minute.

The athlete, who returned to Beirut for the official event on Sunday, said: "Just four days before the marathon was due to start on November 26, the minister for industry, Pierre Gemayel, was brutally assassinated. Three days of mourning were declared and the race was postponed both as a mark of respect and for security reasons.

"Fortunately, everyone remained calm and, being unable to change my air ticket, I decided to travel over to Beirut anyway with my running partner, Jackson Griffith.

"We met up with an old school friend, Maxime Chaya, and the Beirut Marathon Association heard that we had made the effort to come over despite the uncertain political atmosphere and decided to put on a race anyway.

"Two Englishmen, a Scotsman, a Dutchman and one Lebanese lined up for a rather exclusive race, which was a quite amazing experience."

The five competitors were escorted around the city's roads by an entourage which vastly outnumbered them.

"Members of the press, two race cars and an ambulance accompanied us around the course and police motorbikes provided a rolling road block to close off junctions and keep the traffic at bay," explained John, who has also completed gruelling 26-mile races in Delhi, London, Athens and many other cities over the years.

"We needed to stay together so we decided to try and stick to a four-hour pace, and Max and myself led us all over the line in three hours, 59 minutes and six seconds. "As it happens, I was half a pace in front of Max as we crossed the line holding a giant Lebanese flag aloft and I found myself on the winner's podium being presented with a medal and a huge bouquet of flowers."

John, who is married and has three children, was invited back for the real marathon on Sunday by the BMA and he is hoping to return in 2007 as well.

"The Beirut Marathon is the friendliest race I have run and I would have no hesitation in recommending it and hope that many more British runners participate next year," he said.

"My best time for a marathon is three hours and 20 minutes but at least I can always say I have tasted victory, if only the once!

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