Several African runners competing in a marathon in eastern China on Sunday took a wrong turn, Xinhua reports.
The athletes became lost halfway through the 2016 Nanjing International Marathon, which was won by a Mongolian runner in two hours and 31 minutes, the report said.
Tao Shaoming, a former Chinese marathon team coach, posted on his Weibo account that he was told that five of his students, who could usually finish a full marathon in two hours and 10 minutes, withdrew from the race after running in the wrong direction. The report did not indicate the nationality of his students.
African runners claimed the top eight places in last year’s Nanjing Marathon.
The incident drew criticism and teasing from mainland internet users, some of whom said direction was more important than effort while others questioned the planning ability of the organising committee of Nanjing Marathon.
The committee responded that there were no errors in route planning or signage but the athletes took a wrong turn at the junction of the routes for the full and half marathons, due to miscommunication with race officials.
The statement said the error affected the results of some athletes despite being corrected quickly.
A committee staff member, who declined to be named, said runners should become familiar with the route before the race.