For most runners, crossing the finish line is simply a relief. Often, we barely have the energy to lift our arms in celebration, much less do anything more energetic.
For certain runners, though, crossing the finishing tape in a different manner has become the defining moment of their race. Sometimes runners do something special on purpose, other times something just goes wrong. Kenya's Norah Jeruto demonstrated this at last weekend's Valencia 10K race. She took victory in an incredible 30:34 but the tape tangled round her ankles and sent her flying – which, to our dismay, saw the volunteers running away!
Fortunately for Jeruto, she isn't the only one to be foiled by the final hurdle. Here's a list of the most memorable finish tape crossings, including plenty which haven't quite gone to plan...
Foiled by the final hurdle
Kenya’s Robert Mbithi smashed the course record at Bath Half Marathon in 2016, clocking a time of 61:44. However, as he attempted to break the tape, the tape refused to yield and instead wrapped itself around the exhausted athlete’s legs, taking him down in the manner of a brutal rugby tackle.
And knee-slide fails…
French runner Jimmy Gressier is gaining a reputation for unique finish line celebrations. When victorious in cross country races, his celebrations across the tape are becoming increasingly flamboyant. His most recent – hurdling the finish tape at the French Cross Country Championships last November – went viral.
Jimmy Gressier winning the French Cross Country Championships today… bravo!
— Pierce O'Callaghan (@Pierceathletics) November 14, 2021
Luckily that one went to plan, which is not always the case – he first gained notoriety at the 2018 U23 European Cross Country Championships for a kneeslide-turned-faceplant over the line. Grasping a pair of French flags, it all went wrong when his knees got stuck in the mud...
Paying tribute to another athlete
American runner Michael Porter piqued people’s curiosity when he lay down on the floor just before the finish of the 2021 Boston Marathon and rolled over the line. It turns out he’s not the only person to do this: American triathlete Matt Russell has also rolled over the line when finishing a number of Ironman races.
It’s all in tribute to Ironman athlete Jon ‘Blazeman’ Blais, who rolled across the Ironman World Championship line in 2005 after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A number of athletes now do this to remember Blais, who died in 2007, and to raise awareness of the disease, which attacks the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain.
Giving it your all
Diving in some sports is illegal. In running? Totally legit. Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller used this to her advantage in the 2016 Olympic 400m final in Rio. In the last few metres of the race, the athlete dived, or some claimed ‘fell’, over the line to beat America’s Allyson Felix. The move divided opinion, but the result stood, and Miller took home gold.
Officials are always listening
An American high-school cross country runner ended up being disqualified when he swore in disbelief at his own performance as he crossed the finish line last November. Parchment High School runner Garrett Winter yelled, 'Holy f*cking sh*t, let’s go!' in joy as he finished in second place. He was promptly disqualified for 'using profanity'.
When the finish isn’t quite the finish
In 2017, Camille Herron thought she’d crossed the line of the gruelling 89km-long Comrades Marathon in South Africa in first place after a steward handed her a red rose. She slowed to a walk and began high-fiving the crowd, oblivious to the fact she still had 200m left to go hidden around a 90-degree bend. A male runner informed her as he ran past, and the US ultrarunner, who luckily hadn’t been overtaken, kicked up a gear to cross the actual line in 6:27:35.
— Sir Ace (@SirAce13) June 4, 2017
Keep your eyes out for who’s behind you
Ugandan athlete Jacob Kiplimo was about to claim victory in Brazil’s San Silvestre de Sao Paulo 15k Road Race in 2020. He thought it was a foregone conclusion but, as he raised his hands to begin his celebrations steps before the line, second-placed runner Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie had other plans. In a lightning burst of speed, he nudged past Kiplimo on the line, snatching victory by milliseconds.
— Miguel del Pozo (@ricohill8) December 31, 2019
In tribute to your past
Ultramarathon and marathon runner Tom Evans’ blazed onto the scene in 2019 with a huge win at the UTMB’s 101km CCC race. As he crossed the finish line, he saluted in a nod to his days in the British Army. Evans was a captain in the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and took up running after making a bet over a few drinks that he could finish in the top 10 of the Marathon des Sables. He won his bet, finishing 3rd in 2017, and in doing so recorded the fastest time ever by a European runner.
When you’re just too tall
What’s worse than running 26.2 miles? Running 26.2 miles dressed as Big Ben then failing to get under the finish line as your belfry is too high. In 2019, Lukas Bates ran the London Marathon in a towering Big Ben costume in an attempt to beat the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon time dressed as a landmark. He did not break the record, although he did nearly break his costume when the top of the finish line scaffold impeded his progress, requiring him to gain help from a steward so that he could limbo under the finish line scaffolding.
Breaking your leg
Turn away if you’re squeamish
We saved this one until last as it's not an easy watch… At the finish of the 2018 Ironman Lake Placid, a male athlete attempted a celebratory ‘click heels’ jump as he approached the line. On landing, his left ankle gave way and snapped. The athlete remained smiling as he crawled over the line and the team of medics came to his aid.
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