I’m not going to lie – I love Marathon Investigation. This started as a way to track down people who cheated to get into Boston. And it was amazing to see just how many people cheated, and the incredibly inventive way that they cheated. The site then began to profile other cheaters, mostly people who cheated to get on the podium, but they also occasionally point out people who simply cheat so they can claim they finished. They also pointed out people who bandited races, either by copying someone else’s bib or running with an old bib (or without a bib at all).
Don’t get me wrong – cheating is always wrong. I have seen course cutting so many times at Disney races and it makes me mad every time, even though those cheaters would argue that by cutting the course, they didn’t hurt anyone. I can understand this argument. They didn’t push someone else off the podium or take a Boston spot or take aid on the course that they didn’t pay for.
But by cutting the course, by lying about their finish, they are harming the sport. They are saying that it is okay to lie so that you can get a finisher’s medal and proudly proclaim that you finished the race. I don’t understand this at all. Why would you want to lie about your accomplishments? What do you really gain? And the fact that this doesn’t make sense to me says that there is probably something wrong in how we look at racing.
This week, a teammate of mine got called out by Marathon Investigation for cutting a race course. She had previously been disqualified by that race. I admit that I didn’t know her well, and I haven’t talked to her since the piece was published. I don’t know what happened, but the evidence does not look good for her. She is no longer on our team, but that doesn’t mean that she is being shunned by the group. Instead, the leadership has opted to reach out to her and offer assistance.
[W]e have reached out to the athlete and offered to find any resources that will be helpful to her in dealing with this. While it is right and mandatory to speak out against cheating and doping ALWAYS, we also recognize this is a human with feelings. We can all shame her mercilessly on social media and drive her deeper into a hole, or we can try to help her resolve any issues so they no longer hurt her or anyone else around her in the future.
I can understand being in the middle of a race and wanting to quit. (And sometimes, quitting is the smart thing if you’re sick or injured.) I have definitely been in races where I’ve thought “Hey, I could just cut the course there and be done!” Of course, it wasn’t a serious thought. I It was about as serious as thinking “I could just grow wings and fly through the rest of the race.”
I also know that there have been races that I have been determined to finish because I didn’t want to tell people that I didn’t. The fear of failure is honestly often my training motivation when I’m just not feeling it. I don’t want to not finish a race and have to share that. Not with my friends and family – they don’t care. But since I do put all of my training out on the internet, it is scary to think that I might have to also share that I failed.
But you know what? A DNF isn’t failure. Things happen. Injuries, illnesses, weather, heck some days you’re just not feeling great for whatever reason. A DNF says “I tried, and it wasn’t my day.”
We need to remember to be supportive of people no matter what happens at their races. We need to remember that we are all in this for fun (with the exception of the pros, who I hope are partly in it for fun), and that it will be more fun if we support each other. Who knows what drives people to cheat. But rather than point and laugh, we should offer help and be ready to listen when they want to talk. Sure, some people may not want help. But simply by supporting others when they are successful and when they may be less successful, maybe we can reduce the number of people who think that they have to cut a course or lie about their finish times.
In sum, be nice to people. It’s a simple rule.