Steve Yeagle ran his own version of yesterday's Schlitz Light Potomac Valley Marathon, completing the final 10 miles of the course in the wrong direction.

But, after nearly three hours of disputes, testimony and judges' decisions, Yeagle was declared the winner of the 26.2-mile event, earning a December trip to the Schlitz Light national finals in Tampa, Fla.

Yeagle apparently was the winner as he crossed the finish line at Gaithersburg's Lakeforest Mall in 2 hours 29 minutes 45 seconds, 3:10 better than runner-up John Butterfield.

When Butterfield finished he was incredulous that Yeagle had been disqualified. "The guy (Yeagle) passed me headed in the opposite direction," gasped Butterfield. "He ran the course wrong. How could they say he won?"

Yeagle, a graduate student studying pharmacolgy at the University of Maryland, explained, "I made a wrong turn on the course, ran a ways and then stopped to ask an official which way I should be headed. He wasn't sure, so I said the heck with it, turned back and finished the race in reverse."

Yeagle made the wrong turn when he reached a fork while leading on the second and final loop of the course.

He spotted some runners headed in the opposite direction, but they were racing in a simultaneous quarter-marathon (6.6 miles) and at that point were running against the grain of the full marathon course.

"I told myself, hell, I've put all this work into the race so I'll turn around and finish in the reverse direction. Either way, I will have run the full distance," Yeagle said.

Butterfield, a commander stationed at the U.S. Navy Academy, was not pleased. "Yeagle was running all alone going backward.He had no competition in that direction; nobody could work away at his lead."

Yeagle, who was ahead of Butterfield by 150 yards when he lost his bearings, extended the margin another 2 1/2 minutes in the final 10 miles to cement the victory.

Robert Stack of Rockville placed third in 2:38.48, followed by Ed Ayres of Woodbridge, Va., in 2:41:20.

The first woman finisher was Mary Williams of Rockville, 68th overall with a time of 3:16:49.

The top 20 men and top 20 women finishers out of the field of 2,000 also qualified for the finals in Tampa, but they must pay their own way.