GLENDALE, Arizona — A well-known ultramarathon runner from Draper was disqualified from an Arizona race last month after a timing official witnessed him waiting in a port-a-potty in order to skip laps, a race official told KSL.com.
Kelly Agnew was disqualified from the Across The Years fixed-time ultra, which takes place in December at the Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.
Across The Years is a fixed-time ultramarathon. Runners have either 24, 48, 72 hours or 6 days to cover as much distance as they can around a 1.05-mile loop, according to the race’s website.
The timing mats coordinate with a chip that runners wear, keeping track of runners’ laps and times. The loop at Across The Years had two timing mats, and Agnew missed the second mat several times, according to Across The Years co-director Jamil Coury.
“That seemed to be a pattern that he was partaking in,” Coury said. “So once we had proof of that and saw that he was missing the remote timing mats, we pulled him aside and asked him to turn in his chip and his bib from the event."
Race directors had suspicions about Agnew’s activity in the race in previous years, so a timing official was asked to keep a close eye on Agnew during the most recent race, Coury said.
The official witnessed Agnew looping back to the finish line to register laps without running the full loop, as well as spending time in the restroom near the finish line, Coury said.
Initially, when another race director approached Agnew and told him about the evidence, he said he didn’t know he had to cross the mat during each loop, according to Coury.
When told that a timing official had witnessed his activity in the race and he would be disqualified, Agnew turned in his race bib and timing chip without an argument, Coury said.
Agnew was disqualified after his 17th lap of the race.
Race officials examined data from previous Across The Years races and discovered similar discrepancies with Agnew’s times, so he was retroactively disqualified from the other races, Coury said. Agnew was disqualified from the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 editions of the race.
Calls and emails to Agnew went unanswered on Friday.
Derek Murphy of MarathonInvestigation.com first broke the news about Agnew in a post on Tuesday. Other sports news outlets then picked up the story, including Sports Illustrated, Deadspin and Runner’s World.
Murphy, who is based in Cincinnati, also said the news was shocking, especially because Agnew is such a well-known runner with several wins.
“At this level, I would be surprised if there’s a runner with this many victories who seems to have cut the course this many times,” he said.
The news was both shocking and sad, he said.
“I’m upset, but I’m also saddened by the news,” Coury said. “I think a lot of people are saddened that a person that we knew pretty well—it’s a close-knit community—that they would do something like this. It feels like an attack on us.”
According to his blog, Agnew has run dozens of races over the years. He had several ultramarathon wins, as recently as September 2017 in the Lemming Loop race in Winnipeg, Manitoba, according to UltraSignUp.com.
He had been sponsored by Hammer Nutrition, although it was unclear if that sponsorship was still active as of Friday. Agnew had been disqualified from four other races in addition to the four Across The Years events, according to UltraSignUp.com.
Coury said Across The Years race directors plan to use more scrutiny in future races. They plan to examine individual runner data more closely, as well as add more timing mats on race courses.
He said Across The Years organizers never intended to make the situation with Agnew public, but once the MarathonInvestigation.com story was published, they felt the need to speak out.
“You also have to feel sad for Kelly,” Coury said of Agnew. “You don’t know why he did it, but you can imagine. It’s just a sad thing for everyone. … You don’t want to see a guy outed publicly like this, but you also want to maintain the integrity of the sport. So it’s just a really tough situation all around.”