A TIMING error left Andy Vernon playing catch-up after he made the trip to Belgium for the Iris Cross Cup.
It was an extremely frustrating weekend for the athlete, who is from Fareham.
He unfortunately managed to get the race start times confused and gave a two-to-three minute head start to the rest of the field.
Vernon, who would have been one of the favourites to challenge for the victory, left himself far too much to do against high-quality international athletes.
Former City of Portsmouth athlete Alex Teuten, who was in the four-strong England team attending the prestigious Brussels event, was baffled by what happened to Vernon who he would have expected to be chasing, not the other way around.
He said: ‘The gun went and Andy Vernon wasn’t there.
‘He started running three minutes later.
‘Because of the nature of the course you could see people on other parts of the lap.
‘I saw him coming around on the first lap and he was on his own a long way back.
‘It was strange, I wouldn’t have been happy if he had closed up on me.’
Vernon still managed to pick his way through two thirds of the field to finish a respectable 28th.
It certainly showed he’s coming into strong form for the cross-country season.
But his chances of getting among the leading places to pick up a cash prize in time for Christmas were dashed.
Vernon wasn’t in the England team because he represented Great Britain at the European Championships in Italy recently.
But he made the trip anyway and also decided to run the short course 4k event, finishing fourth.
Teuten joked Vernon’s late start might not have been the ideal tactic if he was gunning for the victory.
He added: ‘I don’t think that is the best strategy to take if you are trying to win one of these races.
‘The race attracted some big names so I don’t think he was guaranteed to win it but you certainly can’t give away that length of time.
‘Credit to him that he went out and ran after that.’
After helping Great Britain to team gold at the European Cross Championships, Vernon has been named in the squad for the Great Edinburgh International XCountry on Saturday, January 7.
Mo Farah and Euro Cross bronze medallist Callum Hawkins are also in the senior team along with Southampton youngster Mahamed Mahamed.
GB will go up against teams from Europe and USA.