Tam Chua Puh, a 43-year-old pastry chef, turned in one of the more remarkable distance-running performances of the year when he was the first Singaporean to finish the Singapore Marathon on Sunday.
Turns out, it was too good to be true.
On Wednesday, Tam said he ran barely six kilometers of the 42-kilometer (26.2-mile) route, according to the Straits Times. His finishing time was 2 hours, 54 minutes, 17 seconds, but he took a short cut, missing all but one of the race checkpoints, and was disqualified.
Kenya’s Luka Kipkemboi Chelimo won in 2:14:59.94.
Tam said he’s cheated at two previous marathons, being disqualified both times. He didn’t mean to be the first Singaporean finisher; all he wanted was a finisher’s T-shirt and a medal, according to the report.
“I stopped at the Esplanade because my knee was too sore,” he told the Straits Times. “I got hit by a car when I was 12, and my knee hasn’t been OK since.
“After resting at the bus stop, I made my way back to the finishing line. I saw some Kenyans run past, and I thought I saw some local runners run past, too, so I assumed it was safe to return to the race. I didn’t expect to be the first Singaporean to finish.”
Mr Tam said he finished the 2011 and 2012 races the same way. Both times, he covered about 19km before giving up. Each time, he approached the medical vans and got a ride to the end point, where he resumed running and crossed the finishing line.
Asked if he did not think that was cheating, he said: “It never crossed my mind. Having signed up for the marathon, I just wanted to cross the finishing line.”
This brings to mind Rosie Ruiz, the first woman to cross the finish line at the 1980 Boston Marathon. Ruiz was disqualified after it was discovered she emerged from the crowd with less than a mile left.