Amid celebrations for the end of the Rio Olympics, few spared a thought for Jordan's Methkal Abu Drais who finished the marathon behind a Japanese comedian, a stray dog and an Argentinian running sideways.
It sounds like a punchline to a joke, but that’s what happened as the 32-year-old army sergeant trotted home last in Sunday’s race, finishing 140th more than 37 minutes behind gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya.
Enough time perhaps to fashion a sign warning “Slippery When Wet” for rivals toppling like tenpins along the home straight on a concrete surface that resembled an ice rink after a morning downpour.
“It wasn’t my best day perhaps,” Abu Drais told AFP.
“But my presence at the Olympics among the best marathon runners in the world is an achievement for me.”
Before Abu Drais schlepped up the long concourse of the Sambadrome, the spiritual centre of Rio’s famed carnival, waving to fans, carnage was unfolding ahead.
Former Olympic silver medallist Meb Keflezighi led the way when he lost his footing and skidded across the finish line on all fours. Mortified, he stayed where he was and began to do push-ups to loud applause.
A stray black dog made a lengthy cameo appearance, to further cheers, trotting alongside runners who looked a little wary of the furry intruder.
Abu Drais was still some way off at this stage, huffing and puffing his way to the closing stages of a course which snaked through the heart of Rio’s historic centre.
– Tourist spots –
He insisted he had little time to take in any of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as the giant Christ the Redeemer statue, peeking through the clouds above.
“I wasn’t here for sight-seeing,” shrugged Abu Drais, who trains in the Atlas mountains, which stretch through Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
“A marathon runner doesn’t have time to check out the tourist spots.”
After watching Abu Drais race, some may beg to differ.
“The rain wasn’t helpful,” sniffed Abu Drais, who won the 2012 Stockholm Marathon.
“You have to deal with the elements, circumstances change from race to race. You just want to get to the finish.”
If the rain was not as advertised, neither was the smorgasbord of comedy:
Argentine runner Federico Bruno did a cracking impersonation of a wounded crab as he crossed the line sideways in 137th, dragging his cramping leg behind him.
Iran’s Mohammadjafar Moradi collapsed 20 metres from the line and crawled desperately home.
Fifteen runners failed to finish, one wag wondering if they had stumbled into one of the city’s notorious ‘favela’ slums, never to be seen again.
As if praying for divine intervention, Cuba’s Richer Perez unfurled a banner reading: “Love Jesus.”
Abu Drais, meanwhile, was pipped at the line by pint-sized Kuniaki Takizaki — a Japanese comedian who competes under Cambodia’s flag.
Undeterred the doughty Jordanian said: “I’m off for a shower. I will be back to finish in the top 10 at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”