There was a mixed online reaction to the news on Saturday evening that the winner and record breaker of the Vibram HK100 had been disqualified for “accepting outside support”.
The title and record was passed to fellow mainlander Qi Min, who crossed the finish line second behind Liang Jing in nine hours and 28 minutes.
Liang, from China, took a water bottle from a passing hiker. He was under the impression he had permission to accept the bottle.
Either a language barrier or general confusion meant the hiker was not expecting to have the bottle taken, and then Liang threw it away.
The official reason for his disqualification was “accepting support outside a check point”, but the online community quickly condemned the runner for snatching the bottle without permission and then littering.
American trail runner Sage Canaday was quick to point out Liang would have been aware of the rules.
Cheaters are always looking for an edge up on the competition (even race leaders). I'm not sure what is more disturbing: that he took outside support (strongly against the rules) or that he littered the bottle also. The RD DQ was certainly the right call! https://t.co/08xyuieCDn— Sage Canaday (@SageCanaday) January 27, 2018
For those of you that think I'm being critical about the DQ at the #HK100 .. I say this: when you are a top/elite runner in a race you need to know the rules to a T. No outside support. No littering. You also should know all IAAF/WADA rules on PEDs. No excuses as a top contender— Sage Canaday (@SageCanaday) January 27, 2018
A series of Facebook comments praised the race directors (RD):
“I’m glad that littering has been taken seriously for once,” read one.
“This is the first case of its kind in Asia of a runner getting DQ for littering. And well done to the RD for having the guts to do it,” claimed another.
“Great to see RD’s having the b***s to DQ top runners for littering if it does happen,” said a third.
Immediately after the decision was taken, race director Janet Ng said they had been very clear on the rules around outside support so anything but a strong stance did not make sense.
This is ultrarunning and as such we have very few rules. But the ones we do have are there to perpetuate the sport. Don't litter, don't do drugs, basically don't be a douche. And, if you are, we'll eventually find you. And blackball your ass. #sorrynotsorry— Andy Jones-Wilkins (@ajoneswilkins) January 27, 2018
Other online users chose to focus on the taking of the bottle. Despite the assertion that Liang thought he had permission, the online community equated it to theft:
● “I hope those people whose water are robbed can officially report to the police. This is serious. If it is a hot day and my water is taken away from me, I might die. Crazy!”
● “What kind of an ass steals water from hikers?”
● “It isn’t just littering. [He] took a bottle off a hiker and the threw it away.”
Regardless of him drinking water he wasn’t supposed to drink, he ran an amazing time!! Littering is total crap though.. assuming the hiker is telling the truth— Curtis Moen (@MoenCurtis) January 28, 2018
Many spectators were most appalled by the littering, or the expectation the hiker would pick up after Liang.
● “Good! It really pees me off in any race even after organisers say about not dropping gel packs etc. Just stuff ‘em in your bag and drop off at a food station, easy peasy.”
● “Yup, that’s how it goes. Those of us who are slugs were put here on this Earth to clean up after you fast people ...”
● “I think this sends a great message to the international running fraternity ... some of us still think we have license to freely discard those spent gel packets wherever we like.”
As our sport continues to attract growing number of runners & opportunities.. its paramount that the elite, commentators, coaches, runners, fans etc speak out to keep integrity in our sport high! We must keep standards very high in our community so newcomers too value the sport!— Marty Etheridge (@MartyEtheridge) January 27, 2018
I think he needs to be tested for PED cause I can't imagine he didn't know the rules. #HK100— Rich (@RichdenHartog) January 28, 2018
Liang Jing crosses the finish line of the HK100 in record time only to find out he’s been disqualified. Read full story - link in bio. #hk100 #runner #trailrunning #vibram #ultramarathon #disqualified #trail #outdoorcollective #outdoor_pictures_of_instagram #runners #hkiers #controversy #hkig #hongkong
A post shared by Mark Agnew (@adventureragnew) on Jan 27, 2018 at 5:44pm PST
There was a more sympathetic section of the internet who praised Liang’s record run, and gave him the benefit of the doubt.
● “He did a mistake during an immense effort and an awesome run we can hardly imagine. He should be punished for that but I hope he is not criminalised. He will learn from this and will be given a second chance.”
● “I actually feel kind of bad for the guy. I’m not convinced he really understood what he was doing. Still, he broke the rules.”
● “Absolutely incredible run from them both [Qi] regardless!”
Both Liang and Qi are relatively unknown on the international circuit, making their times all the more impressive, as they shaved four minutes of the record.
Yao Miao broke the women’s record by almost 40 minutes.