Kenyan Athlete Damaris Areba nearly lost her record-breaking title and prize money totaling close to Ksh1 million shillings after her tag failed to register her as the winner of the female race at the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon held on Sunday in Wisconsin.
According to reports, the 28-year-old took part in the annual race which was being held after a two-year hiatus.
The athlete, Areba, finished first in the race, completing it in 2 hours, 37 minutes, and 39 seconds. She shattered a 30-year-old record set by Nancy Mieszczak in 1983, who set a time of 2:39:15.
An hour later, when the awards were being dished out, the Kenyan athlete was surprisingly not named winner. The title went to Jenelle Deatherage, an American, instead who finished second after recording a time of 2:55:35.
Areba and her colleagues began the frantic process of justifying her win to race director Scott Stauske and it was quickly established that the error emanated from her race number.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a media outlet in the US, reported that after initial analysis, it turned out that the race number on Areba's bib was different from the number on computer chips.
Therefore, her race number had been registered as belonging to a 46-year-old male which was not detected in the women's race.
"In today's world, I'm not taking the responsibility for identifying a gender and because this person has consistently registered as male. The problem came in when we did not realize the chip was printed incorrectly until after," explained Stauske according to the outlet.
"So once we discovered the issue, obviously there's a language barrier. We don't normally take any steps of filling out people's information, but in this particular case we took the passport and somebody from our registration platform actually filled in the information for her. So there could have been an issue with our information being put into it."
After the issue was sorted, Areba was declared the winner pocketing the Ksh222,450 ($1,500) for winning the race and Ksh741,500 bonus for breaking the record which brought the total amount to Ksh963,950.
"There was an error. It had to do with the timing chip and had absolutely nothing at all to do with the athlete," the director added.
Since 2014, Areba has participated in over 13 races spanning various continents.
In 2016, she won the women's race at the Surrey Half Marathon and also won her first IMT women's marathon in 2022.