Runner accidentally walked 49 miles for virtual London Marathon after her GPS stopped working

Telegraph reporters
·3-min read
London Marathon competitor Jodey Hopcroft, 38, who ended up walking 49 miles to complete her 26.2 mile virtual route as the event's official app to record did not work properly -  East Anglia News Service
London Marathon competitor Jodey Hopcroft, 38, who ended up walking 49 miles to complete her 26.2 mile virtual route as the event's official app to record did not work properly - East Anglia News Service

A competitor ended up walking 49 miles to complete her own virtual London Marathon due to a problem with the official app she had downloaded to record her performance.

Jodey Hopcroft, 38, was among 38,000 amateurs entered into this year's event who used the Virgin Money London Marathon app on their own individual routes.

However, poor GPS reception on her mobile phone near her home on the north Norfolk coast meant that the app worked only intermittently.

Ms Hopcroft ended up walking for more than 15 hours before the app finally registered that she had gone the official marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

When she returned home tired and exhausted, she studied a map and found that she had actually travelled 49 miles.

The app enabled London Marathon runners to complete their own routes after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of this year's event on the streets of the capital.

Ms Hopcroft realised that it was not working properly within minutes of setting off when it failed to record her first half a mile, travelling down the drive from the Waxham Sands holiday park where she works.

However, she was determined to carry on in the wind and rain because she could only qualify for a digital certificate and medal if the app recorded her doing the full 26.2 miles.

She also did not want to let down her sponsors who were donating more than £2,100 to multiple sclerosis charity MS-UK in return for her finishing the race.  

"Once I had started I could not stop", she said.

"Everything would have been void and I would not have been registered as finishing. I had to keep going until the app registered I had done 26.2 miles.

"I thought it would be fine when I set off, but the GPS is pretty bad around here, especially when you get mist and rain, so I should have realised there might be problems.

"The app did recommend people used a secondary device, but I only downloaded it a few days before and I didn't have anything else to take with me so I was a bit naive.

"In hindsight, I should have planned my route better in areas where there was decent reception. I should have driven in my car to start in Norwich or at least just walked towards there, so it was my fault I did not do that.

"The rain was pouring down so hard that there were deep puddles which I couldn't avoid so it felt like I was walking in streams and I got really bad blisters.

"Believe me there were a couple of times I did have a bit of a cry, I was just in agony.

"But the app included messages of encouragement from Paula Radcliffe and Steve Cram every time it recorded a mile. I realised that I was doing a lot more than a mile between many of the messages, but they helped spur me on."

Ms Hopcroft said she collapsed into "hysterical laughter" when she checked on an Ordnance Survey map and found how far she had gone.

A spokesperson for the Virgin Money London Marathon said: "We warmly congratulate Jodey for completing the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon.

"We salute Jodey's strength, stamina and good humour and hope she raised plenty of money for MS-UK."