Cheaters (Never Win…)

Cheating. If you follow sports, you will see this make headlines from time to time in the form of things like performance enhancing drugs, etc. But what about everyday people? Do cheaters effect you?

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If you are a runner, you may have seen this story recently.  The story details a woman who “won” the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in Fort Oglethorpe, GA.  She was stripped of her “win” when race officials realized that her data from her timing chip did not support her race time. Her chip showed her running the first 13.1 in a little over two hours and the second half in under one hour. Problem is, that second 13.1 was faster than the current women’s world record for that distance which I’m quite sure was not set on the back half of a marathon! The woman is not admitting to cheating, but all evidence points to her having cut short the second half in some way.

This was a very blatantly flawed result, but what about smaller incidents? Last weekend I ran Disney’s Wine & Dine half marathon. It was raining the entire time. The course was covered in puddles and many (not me and my thicker “northern blood”) felt that it was freezing cold. There is a lot of internet chatter this week that arguably a lot of people cut off miles. Talk is that there were a lot of people in later corrals (i.e. a bit slower) that registered forty minute 15K times. There were also accounts of people passing the same person twice. (At Disney races many are in distinctive costumes, so it is more obvious if you see the same person twice)

I have read this chatter with interested because there are two very different opinions on this. The first is “Who cares, it only hurts them. They cheated themselves and it doesn’t effect me.” The second, and the one that I personally believe, is that it does matter and it effects us all. It effects the integrity of the sport. Here is why it does effect us all.

  1. It skews age group results. While I was not “racing” this one and didn’t care (as much) where I finished in the pack, I typically do look at this data and I know a lot of others do as well. I set goals for myself such as to finish in the top ten percent of my age group or the top twenty-five percent overall. If some of the people that finished ahead of me got there by cheating, I am not seeing an accurate representation.
  2. It messes up the winners. I will never win a “big” race, but I know of people who have been cut out of age group awards because of cheaters. In this case the cheating could be as described above, or more commonly, someone running with another runner’s bib and still crossing the finish line. Let’s say I can’t run a race and decide to let my brother use my bib. All of a sudden you have a much faster male running in my female age group. He disappears afterwards thinking if he doesn’t claim the award no one is hurt. But they are – some female that busted their butt got moved down a place because of this. (And no, this is not a real story for me – just an example!)
  3. In some cases, course cutting can cause safety issues. All of a sudden much slower people are in front of faster runners. If not safety issues, it is sure enough to slow down some runners who may be chasing down a PR.

We all have those days. The days where you wish it was over. The days you wish that distance could be cut. But as I see it, there are only two choices with integrity:

  1. Suck it up and finish (if you are physically capable). You will be dry, warm or {insert your reason here} later. We are all experiencing the same conditions out there.
  2. Collect your DNF (did not finish). Even elite runners have these from time to time. If you truly gave it your all and couldn’t do it, this is the honorable option. If the race doesn’t have a “pick-up” option to shuttle you to the finish (most do), and you cut the course short, consider just not crossing the finish line.

I know I personally could never cut a race course and act like I was a finisher.  But I have seen it happen dozens of times in person (usually not major cuts like this, but cutting an out-and-back by .25 or so) and I’m sure it happens more than I can possibly imagine.

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So what do you think? Is course cutting cheating even if you don’t “win” anything?

 

 

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