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Friday, August 14, 2015

Runners Cheat? Say It Ain't So!

If you are like me, then you too have this blind trust that all runners are really good people. Whether it be by the obligatory wave as you pass each other on the road or trail or the offer of an extra gel when you forget yours during a race, I have always thought of runners as friendly, honest and trustworthy. Basically morally above all other people.

I remember doing the Mississippi Blues Marathon in 2013, when a man I had met on the plane told me he was also a Marathon Maniac and he offered me a ride to the expo. I would never get into a car with a strange man I had never met before, but I immediately got into the car with him without a fear in the world. Why? Because he was a runner. I just thank goodness he was only a Marathon Maniac and not just a maniac!

I did the the same thing when I went to dinner. A Marathon Maniac invited me to dinner and off I went on a 45 minute trek in a car through Jackson with someone I had only met once, but he was a runner, so he was a good guy right? Turns out both guys are now good friends, but in any other instance, I would be more safe.    

In my mind runners worked hard, were committed to doing their best and followed the race rules regardless of convenience, but over the last year or two it seems I have been a little naive. I have had the rude awakening that runners are people too! Yes folks, I know it's hard to believe, but there are liars, cheaters and unscrupulous runners out there! Just don't tell me there is no Santa, my heart couldn't take it!

Wikipedia sited quite a few unscrupulous runners:
  • Rosie Ruiz was the first female finisher of the 1980 Boston Marathon, but her result was immediately questionable. In the wake of suspicion about Ruiz, her results in the 1979 New York City Marathon were invalidated and then her Boston result was stripped.

Rosie Ruiz
  • During the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC, a group of about eight Canadian runners called Jean's Marines cut four miles from the marathon in order to avoid a time cut-off on the course. The team was barred from running the 2006 edition of the marathon.

  • Roberto Madrazo, a Mexican presidential candidate in 2006, had his results invalidated in the 2007 Berlin Marathon. According to his timing chip, Madrazo skipped two checkpoints on the course and covered one nine-mile segment in 21 minutes (faster than world-record speed for such a distance).
  • Kip Litton, a dentist in Davison, Michigan, has been linked to suspicious results in many races; his alleged cheating is the subject of a 2012 New Yorker feature article, Marathon Man: A Michigan dentist’s improbable transformation. Litton has been disqualified from races including the 2009 City of Trees Marathon, 2010 Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, the 2010 Missoula Marathon and the 2010 Delaware Marathon.
  • At least 30 of the top 100 finishers in the 2010 Xiamen International Marathon either rode public transport during the race or hired other runners to carry their electronic timing chips. Competitive finishes in the marathon earned runners points toward entries into China's highly competitive universities.
  • After finishing 3rd in the 2011 Kielder Marathon, Rob Sloan eventually admitted to cutting the course by taking a bus between the start and finish.
Rob Sloan
  • Kevin Goodman, a prominent Cleveland businessman, claimed to have helped victims of the Boston Marathon bombings after having run the 2013 Boston Marathon, but marathon officials stated they had no record of Goodman starting or finishing that race. Goodman’s results in the 2012 and 2013 Towpath Marathon were retroactively invalidated.
  • Jason Scotland-Williams made news among the London media who questioned his result in the 2014 London Marathon. Scotland-Williams’s results show that he ran the first half of the marathon in 2:07:05 and the second half in 1:01:42, world-class pace for the last 13.1 miles. News sources report that he may have jumped a barrier or skipped nine miles of the course. He denied any wrongdoing.
  • Tabatha Hamilton was disqualified after finishing as the first female of the 2014 Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon; race officials determined it was impossible for her to have run the last half of the marathon in 49 minutes without cutting the course. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Hamilton said "that she completed the full marathon and the disqualification was a mistake."
  • Kendall Schler finished first among women at the 2015 St. Louis Marathon but officials determined she had not completed the entire course and Schler was disqualified. She was also retroactively disqualified from the 2014 St. Louis Marathon.
Kendall Schler

Most of these folks were caught (or accused of) cutting the course, but there is one way of cheating that is becoming more prevalent and here in Utah, it seems like people just turn a blind eye to it.

Most of us remember the stories from the 2014 Boston Marathon when many runners forged bibs to get into the race. It caused quite the uproar on social media, but what I am talking about is running a race with a bib that doesn't belong to you.

Runners forged bibs to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon!

People do it for many reasons. A friend gets hurt and can't run the race, why let the bib go to waste? Want to qualify for Boston or NYC but are not fast enough? Ask a fast friend to do it!

This practice may seem harmless to some, but make no mistake, if you run under another person's bib you're cheating. I have seen age group awards won and prizes taken by people NOT running with their own bib and in most cases they are in a different age group and/or gender!

As runners and racers, we should always respect the rules of the race we are running. When we sign up we all sign waivers and agreements saying we understand the rules and will follow them. That means if the race has a no transfer/no refund policy, we have to use our judgment on whether we are willing to risk losing money when we sign up. Yes, it sucks, but if you are not willing to take the risk, it's best to sit it out. Running is free, racing is not. I have lost quite a few clams on races I could not or decided not to run. 

Some runners may have different goals than getting an award. I know a girl that just wanted to make the top 10 in her age group. How would she or others feel if she was edged out by a man running under a woman's bib he bought off a Facebook page? In order to keep the sport fair, we ALL must follow the rules, not just the elites or faster runners, not just when the rules benefit us, we should always play fair. I won't even get into the safety issues involved, it's just good sportsmanship to follow the rules of the race.

The good news is, a lot of races are starting to offer more liberal transfer policies so those who register early and find out later that they can't run, are able to legally transfer their bib to another person.

Here in Utah, there is a Facebook page in Utah called Utah Bib Exchange that allows people to post bibs they want or want to get rid of. The owner of the page indicates that the page should be used for legal transfers only, but I don't think it's enforced by what I have seen on the page. In fact, I saw a post yesterday asking for a 1/2 marathon bib in return for a 1:30 PR and people were actually supporting this behavior until someone called him out.

Saw this on Utah Bib Exchange yesterday. I wish I could say I was shocked.

This is the kind of stuff that gives runners a bad name. Come on people! Let's play fair and live up to my fantasy that runners are the greatest and coolest people in the world!

We all want to run all the races and races are expensive, but you risk not only cheating others (by skewing results), you end up cheating yourself by posting a time you didn't earn.


gg said...

Well stated. I have the full screen shot with all comments before it was deleted if you want it.

Art said...


Joann Helmus said...

Well written! You took a lot of time for this! My husband was cheated from an AG first place at 2014 Springfield Marathon; others were cheated from 2nd and 3rd. RD didn't have time to investigate, but we know it wasn't fair for those who train and run well.

Jessica I said...

That is infuriating!