A MARATHON runner who caught the bus on his way to a third-placed finish has apologised to organisers for cheating.

Rob Sloan, 31, told a friend he became tired at the 20-mile mark of Sunday’s Kielder Marathon, in Northumberland, and hopped on the free spectators’ bus.

The Northern Echo: The bus Rob Sloan took after completing most of the Kielder Marathon.

But instead of telling marshals what he had done, Mr Sloan, a former Army mechanic, left the bus near the end and emerged from a wood to rejoin the course, crossing the line to accept the accolades of the spectators who had gathered at the finish.

As rumours of his deed began to spread, Mr Sloan, who is a member of the Sunderland Harriers, “categorically denied” not completing the 26.2-mile course.

The Northern Echo: Rob Sloan

“I ran the whole race,” he said in a statement on Monday.

But the runner, who 24 hours earlier had won a 10K race at the same event, was spotted by a number of witnesses, and organisers were left with no alternative but to disqualify him.

Mr Sloan, of Downhill, Sunderland, had gone to ground last night, but Kielder Marathon director Steve Cram said he has now admitted his guilt.

A statement from the organisers of the Salomon Kielder Marathon said: “Last night, we confirmed that the athlete who was disqualified on Sunday, after initially placing third, has admitted that he failed to complete the whole course of 26.2 miles.

“Rob Sloan, of Sunderland Harriers, had apparently made the decision to withdraw from the race at approximately 20 miles due to fatigue and, after returning to the Leaplish Park area, decided to run the closing section of the course and crossed the finish line in third place.

“This was rightly questioned by several witnesses, including the rightful third place finisher, Steven Cairns, of Peebles, Scotland, who has been awarded his prize.”

Mr Cram, a former Olympic runner, said: “We are pleased this matter has been cleared up. Rob Sloan made a mistake and has apologised to us for the confusion it has caused. We were sure our decision was correct at the time and are pleased that Steven Cairns has rightly been confirmed as our third place finisher.”