It's hard to believe anyone would want to spend an extended period of time in a port-a-potty. But that's what a long-distance runner apparently did in order to cheat at a Phoenix race earlier this month.
After someone saw Kelly Agnew enter the port-a-potty, only to wait there for a precise, mile-pace seven minutes, officials reviewed the timing data and realized something was up. He's been disqualified from four of his Phoenix race titles as a result.
The race was what's known as a fixed-time event, where runners have to cover as much distance as they can in a set amount of time, often racking up a ton of mileage. This year, Agnew was competing in the 24-hour ultra-marathon race.
According to the running organization that puts on a multiday race called Across the Years at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix, Agnew circumvented the course by completing a lap and hiding in the toilet — catching his breath, I guess. He'd then exit the port-a-potty to cross the start/finish line again, making it seem like he did another lap.
Thanks to a timing official who was keeping track of Agnew this time around, his ultra-race was cut short.
“This year, we pulled him off the course after about 18, 19 miles," Jamil Coury, the race director for Across the Years, told Phoenix New Times.
The site Marathon Investigation reported that Mike Melton with the timing organization MCM Timing had been tasked with observing Agnew in Phoenix this year, in light of growing suspicions about Agnew's remarkable string of ultramarathon successes since 2013.
Sure enough, Melton witnessed Agnew cross the lap marker mat and then enter the port-a-potty, where he waited for about seven minutes — his mile pace — only to re-emerge and cross the lap marker again.
Coury told New Times that the timing official saw Agnew "kind of looping back around and crossing the mat again without actually doing a loop on the course." They corroborated this eyewitness account with data from the second timing system on the other side of the course, which didn't register Agnew during the laps he was actually chilling out in the port-a-potty.
"Skipping laps, basically," Coury said.
When Agnew was confronted by the observer and told he would be disqualified, "he turned in his timing chip and left without much of an argument," according to Marathon Investigation.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
To make matters worse, Agnew had won the race four years in a row. The organization didn't quibble: On Wednesday, officials announced they were stripping him of all of the titles. Across the Years wrote in a Facebook post that it was retroactively assigning new winners.
"It saddens us to see this take place at an event that is centered around camaraderie amongst runners and support of top performances," the event managers wrote. "This type of cheating is not tolerated by our race or race organization. At this point in time Kelly will not be welcome back to participate in races organized by Aravaipa Running."
Race director Coury told New Times that they've received no communication from Agnew after he was disqualified and stripped of the prizes. Agnew did not respond to a request for comment.
“At this point in time, he’s not welcome back,” Coury said. “I don’t know — if he comes out and makes some sort of apology, maybe we would consider it in the future. If that ever happens, we would take it as it comes.”