Running: Rabbit's Revenge

Outside magazine, June 1994

Running: Rabbit's Revenge
By Todd Balf (with Martin Dugard and Eric Hagerman)

Wen Paul Pilkington reached the halfway point at last February's Los Angeles Marathon, he glanced over his shoulder, glanced again, and then estimated he had a quarter-mile lead. As the race's paid designated rabbit, Pilkington, a 36-year-old high school teacher from the Salt Lake City area, was supposed to set a quick pace from the get-go, luring other, presumably more-talented runners to a fast, crowd-pleasing pace. Then, at exactly the 13.1 mile mark, he would drop out, catch a cab back to Los Angeles International Airport, and fly home. Alas, the lead--not to mention $37,000 in prize money and a Mercedes sedan--proved too tempting. Pilkington kept running, tacking on one lickety-split mile after another. Meanwhile, the pack, which included U.S. champion Ed Eyestone and 1988 Olympic medalist Ahmed Salah from Djibouti, was engrossed in a slow, tactical race and seemed to forget about the rabbit. Pilkington, in a victory that veteran race observers call unprecedented, hit the finish tape first in 2:12:13. Italy's Luca Barzaghi crossed the finish line 39 seconds later, his arms held high in what he supposed was victory. When Barzaghi learned he was the runner-up, he fumed, "I was told the rabbit would drop out." Countered Pilkington: "It's a footrace. Nowhere in my contract did it say that I had to quit."

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