Lifelong runner and Austin Marathon race director John Conley has been a part of many races, but none of the finishes he’s been a part of quite compare to what he saw Sunday in Texas.
“What we saw was a champion,” Conley said. “The toughest person on the planet.”
Conley’s not talking about Cynthia Jerop, the women’s winner, who finished the 26.2-mile race in 2:54:21.
He’d expected to see Kenyan runner Hyvon Ngetich. According to reports he’d received from the race course, she had been leading most of the race.
But with just two-tenths of a mile left to run, Ngetich began to wobble and stagger, and eventually fell down. She attempted to get back up and keep running but was unsuccessful, Conley said.
But Ngetich never stopped moving forward.
With members of the race team ‘s medical staff walking on all sides cheering her on, Ngetich crawled to the finish line.
“As bad as it looks, we knew she was prepared to finish,” Conley said.
With just 2 meters left for her to crawl, Ngetich was passed by second place finisher Hannah Steffan. Ngetich placed third, with a time of 3:04:02.
Conley said Ngetich crawled more than 400 meters (1,312 feet) to cross the finish line, leaving her knees and elbows bloodied and her hands stained from the pavement.
She was immediately rushed to a medical tent, where she was treated for dangerously low blood sugar, Conley said.
Ngetich told CNN affiliate KEYE she doesn’t remember finishing the race.
Her “exceptional effort,” inspired applause from nearly every marathon spectator and inspired Conley to adjust her prize money so she receives the same amount of money as if she’d come in second.
“You ran the bravest race and crawled the bravest crawl I have ever seen in my life,” Conley said to Ngetich on Sunday night, “You have earned much honor.”
Ngetich said it’s just what she does.
“In running, you have to keep going,” she said.