In the running community, there’s a pretty popular blog that calls out marathon cheaters. The guy who runs it does an impressive job of reviewing race results and calling out course cutters and people who have someone else run with their bib so they can get a Boston Marathon qualifying time.
But sometimes I think that maybe the site goes too far. Recently, he called out a bunch of people at the Honolulu marathon. He pulled up race times and looked at people with Boston Qualifying times (not people who registered for Boston, just people who ran a BQ) and then reviewed whether timing mats had been missed. Apparently, the course was pretty easy to cut, so a number of people just skipped chunks of the course.
Now, in general, we don’t know why someone course cuts. Maybe they are under trained or injured and just need to stop running. I’ve seen races where there is a sign during the marathon that says something along the lines of “If you can’t continue, turn here for a quick route to the finish.” It prevents the race from having to pick up too many stragglers in a vehicle. Plenty of people show up to marathon start lines unprepared and are unable to finish. It’s not a great situation, but it happens. People underestimate what it truly takes to run 26.2 miles.
The people who were called out on this post did one other thing – they posed for “finisher’s” pictures with their medals, taken by the official race photographers. I’ve talked before about how I feel about wearing a finisher’s medal if you don’t finish a race. I don’t love it, but a number of races give them out to people who are swept, and I’ve just decided that I can’t let someone else’s actions affect me.
So yes, what these people did wasn’t awesome, but is it really something we need to get worked up about?
Of course, if these people then used those ridiculously fast marathon times to register for Boston, that’s an issue. They’re taking a spot away from someone who actually did qualify and deserves to be there. (Note – I think that there are some checks done, so someone who misses all the timing mats on the second half of the course probably won’t actually get into Boston.)
I just don’t know how I feel about publicly calling out these people. What’s the point? We don’t love what they’ve done, but is public humiliation really the best answer? They lied about finishing a race, but in the whole scheme of things, is that something we want to focus our energy on?
A few years back, I got called out in a public forum for possibly having someone run under my bib at Space Coast. The first year I ran the race, I had a terrible race. I woke up with a killer headache, but walked the race anyway because it was the first year of a five year series. The next year, I had an awesome race. Still slower than my PR, but a good race. I cut over 30 minutes off my time from the previous year. So obviously I had cheated. Except that if anyone looked into my race times (I do have an Athlinks account), they would see that the slow race was the outlier, not the fast one. I pointed this all out and the guy shut up pretty quickly and then deleted the information upon my request.
Now, I’m not saying that’s what happened in the Honolulu marathon. There were enough missed timing mats that it’s clear people cut the course. But I just think that maybe we spend too much time worrying about what other people do when the net effect it has on us is really minimal, if at all.