Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Street cred


I'm a little late to the party, but it looks like I have two more inductees into my Great Liars in Running Hall of Fame. Did you miss this post? Last year, I took to task those runners who printed copies of a woman's Boston marathon bib after she posted it on social media. I also found a few other runners and race organizers to keep those runners company. I've had a few other inductees since that original post. The candidates just keep on coming forward.

I'm going to put it out there: I despise cheaters. But my teenagers tell me that cheating is rampant in school these days. Tom Brady is letting the air out of footballs. FIFA officials are taking bribes and the St Louis Cardinals are hacking into the Houston Astros computer network. Cheating is everywhere, and why shouldn't amateur athletes be any different?

Everyone's doing it, right?

It's getting hard to be an honest athlete.

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First up is Mike Rossi. You might remember him as that dad who posted a letter he sent to the principal of his kids school. Still doesn't ring a bell? He ran the Boston Marathon, and the school principal refused to excuse his kids' absences from school when they accompanied him on his trip. He wrote a really great letter, all about how they got all kinds of life experience traveling with him to Boston and watching him chase a life dream. This is the stuff that goes viral. And it did. I read it, and I was pretty impressed. Heck, I'd pull my kids out of school to accompany me to Boston, if I qualified. Even though my youngest recently asked me if he really had to go to Boston.

Unfortunately for Mr. Rossi, people scrutinized his self-righteousness. And they found something really interesting. It appears that maybe, just maybe, he didn't actually qualify for Boston. The race he ran was not consistent with any of his past race finish times. Race photos didn't show him in any photos except crossing the finish line. And there were no chip mats along the race to track his progress.


I've run races like that. Last year, when I ran that hot, steamy Zooma Chicago half marathon, there were no timing mats on the course. I could have turned around early and headed back to the finish line. No one would have been the wiser, right? I didn't do it, but I could have and salvaged what was my slowest half ever. Right. And live with the knowledge that I cheated?

I'm not saying Rossi did this. And since there was no proof that he cheated, the Boston Marathon didn't DQ him. He has to live with the knowledge that maybe or maybe not...he didn't actually qualify. His Boston finish time? 4:01:42. Way less than his 3:11:45 qualifying time.

Rossi photo courtesy of phillymag.com
Heck, I want to run Boston. But not bad enough to cheat. Not saying that he did. But you know what? I bet he was just so excited about running Boston that he had to go and make a big deal about it. In the world we live in now, where you can check everything with a click, you need to keep it on the up and up.

Hope he enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame/infamy. I wonder what his kids learned about all this?

I smell a rat....

As it turns out, Rossi isn't alone doing whatever it takes for a BQ. Kendall Schler qualified to run Boston this spring after she came in 3rd at the Go! St Louis marathon last year. This year, she won that marathon! Interestingly, when race officials reviewed the race, they discovered that their winner didn't cross any of the 7 timing strips along the course. Race officials smelled a rat, and reviewed last year's results as well.  Nope, Schler didn't cross any mats at that race either.
When asked about this, she told race officials that she "removed" the timing strip from her race bib. Oh, ok then! We'll just go with your word on it then. You keep that $1500 prize.

Sarcasm aside, I've run a lot of races, and I've never taken the timing strip off my race bibs. Help me to understand why anyone would do that? Supposedly she wears the bib on her leg instead of her shirt, and maybe the strip makes it hard to attach the bib to her leg? You know, that pesky plastic makes the bib a little stiff. Hard to run with that wrapped around your leg. Especially if you're a super fast runner--those quads need to breathe.

I know people do this, put their bib on their leg, but you're really not supposed to do that anyways...but I digress...

Schler photo courtesy of runhaven.com
Ok, just for the sake of argument, let's say she's telling the truth and she won fair and square, sans timing chip. Then explain why, just like Rossi above, there were no race photos of Schler anywhere along the course. Race officials reviewed this year's photos, and nope, none except of Schler crossing the finish line. And when asked to provide photos, Schler could not.

So race officials contacted the Boston marathon, and Schler was disqualified from the race. A BQ and a DQ. You don't see that every day.

I get the desire to run Boston. The Boston Marathon really is the pinnacle of running for long distance runners. I'd love to qualify. But I couldn't run it knowing I cheated to get in. I couldn't live with myself. Heck, I couldn't even quit on my virtual half last weekend! But just say I get a BQ but I don't get in because a cheater qualified with a little better time than me and took my spot. Wouldn't that be horrible? For me it would...

Sadly, these stories are becoming more common, and I can't help but wonder if cheating is becoming more acceptable. The desire to win is so strong and the stakes are so high, it's no wonder athletes are pushing the limits. But we're amateur athletes. We're never going to win. We should be happy that we get to run. Our only competition should be ourselves. We need to set a good example for our children and young athletes. There's pride in a job well done, a race well run, fair and square. And that should be enough for all of us.

To Rossi and Schler, welcome to the Hall of Fame. Say hi to Rosie while you're there.








44 comments :

  1. I just wonder how they can feel good about getting there when they pull those kinds of stunts, but then again those kind of people aren't real concerned about that I guess. I hadn't heard that about the Rossi guy... oops to him, I guess all his drama was just drama!

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    1. If he hadn't made such a big deal about that letter he wrote to his kids school, he would have stayed under everyone's radar. What a putz!

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  2. Wow, this is the first time I am hearing about the possibility of Rossi cheating. His Boston story was on our local news since he lives not far from us.

    I hear and see people cheating at Disney races all the time an it infuriates me! I don't know if they think it doesn't matter cus it's Disney. People cut the course and people sell/give their bibs to other runners and then use their times for corral placements for other Disney races. It really shouldn't bother me as it does not effect me but it's still the fact that they are cheating.

    Oh, and I have legitimately heard of folks taking their timing chip off because they don't want their time recorded but that is usually only if they know they will be running a less then stellar race, like maybe they are injured, or perhaps running with a much slower friend. That does not account for them not having any photos along the course though, unless of course they removed their bib. But for someone who ran a fast race, why would they do that? Great topic!

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    1. Runners World did a story on Rossi after his letter to his kids' school went viral. Wonder what he told his kids about all that?

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  3. I want to punch cheaters in the face. Seriously. A) why take the risk B) why the hell are you out there any way???

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    1. I just don't see how they can live with themselves!

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  4. I just don't get it. A huge part of success in my running is my own pride and dignity. Im not doing it to prove anything to anyone but myself, so I just can't relate to the idea of cheating like this. And especially with the situation involving the kids- what a terrible example to set for them!

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    1. I agree 100%! I think that cheating is becoming more acceptable, tho, which is really sad.

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  5. This kind of thing just goes through me. Why bother?!?!?! So frustrating.

    I have friends that run races for free to take advantage of the goodies & that drives me INSANE!!! I tell them every time they are wrong & she says, "We cant afford for our whole family to do it otherwise"... my response is, DONT DO IT THEN!

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    1. Oooh, those freeloaders make me mad! I don't think they realize that they're hurting the paying runners, especially the back of the packers who often get gypped out of post race food. It's just wrong.

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  6. That Mike Rossi...he posted the letter on a Facebook running group that I'm also a member of, it was an absolute nightmare...I wouldn't be surprised if he cheated to BQ. He seemed like he liked the attention. It's sad how far people will go sometimes...I'm way too stubborn to take a shortcut like that. I do find it interesting that he wasn't DQ'd, but Schler was...

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    1. I guess it wasn't as clear cut with Rossi because there weren't any timing mats. In the race with Schler, there were mats and she never crossed any of them.

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  7. Should be called the "Hall of Shame"! I once asked my friend who qualified for and raced the Kona Ironman World Championship if doing that race was the pinnacle of his racing career. He said no, the qualifier race was the pinnacle. Actually doing the Kona Ironman was his "victory lap". So, if you cheat to gain entry into a race, you are missing out on what some consider the best part - really, truly qualifying.

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    1. You're right! I may have to rename it!

      If you cheat to qualify, then you are taking a spot from someone who actually qualified! I'd sure hate to miss out on a big race because some cheater took my spot.

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    2. Good point. If that Boston Marathon guy did not really qualify then he did bump out someone else who did.

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    3. I think about this a lot--my BQ is 4 hours, and I think I can do it...but even if I make that, I don't think I'll have a huge margin that will guarantee an entry. What if I get bumped out by a cheater? Grrrr...

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  8. I feel really sad for amateur athletes who feel so much pressure to reach a goal that they resort to these kinds of shenanigans; it's hard for me to come to terms with professional athletes to do it, as well, but they have a lot more at stake.

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    1. Agreed. Really what's at stake for us besides maybe an AG award or a qualifying race?

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  9. Ugh these people! When I first heard about Rossi possibly cheating I was pretty shocked. To be fair, I have two half marathon times that are like 20 minutes faster than all of my other ones, so part of me was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt - sometimes everything is perfect on race day and sometimes it's not. But when they couldn't find any pictures of him or proof he ran the race, and I read that he hadn't done a full blown race recap of his BQ on his blog like he does for all of his other races, I was pretty sure he was lying. It's so crazy and I don't get why anyone would want to do that!

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    1. I agree with you on the timing issue. I guess it was just one more piece of the puzzle.

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  10. I just don't get it! The "why" or the "how"! How do these people cheat like that? Hide in the crowd then jump out in the front? It looks like someone would notice that! I mean, the people who are truly leading the race surely KNOW they're leading. And they don't notice that all of a sudden someone is in front of them? Or maybe they jump out into a crowd toward the end then use their fresh legs to pass their way to the front? It's so stupid. I don't want a win unless I earn it.

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    1. Actually, the people in the front do notice that these things...at least that's what all the articles I read said. With Schler, I guess she jumped in way ahead of the actual winner.

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  11. My brain just doesn't understand those who want to say look what I did ! even if they really didn't do it...
    I agree with Pam above me, if I win I want to know I earned it!

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  12. Great topic ! As I live oversees I didn't hear about these things going on, but people who cheat are just cheating themselves. And I believe that in the long term, things like that will come back to haunt them.

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    1. We can only hope that there's some kind of karmic justice.

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  13. Never understood these types of people. And who knew you couldn't put your bib on your leg? I almost always do as my overgrown pooch makes wearing it on my midsection VERY uncomfortable. Oh well, thank goodness I am not fast, nor am a contender for any sort of awards, lol.

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    1. I was surprised to learn that about the bibs as well!

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  14. Wow! I had no idea this is going on!! That is crazy. And it surprises me to see it in runners.... because I generally think of runners, especially amateur ones, of doing it for themselves! I've never been able to cheat ...that is just me....the guilt would not be worth it. And I really believe in Karma...

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    1. I'm totally with you. I don't quite get it myself.

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  15. I guess it's attention seeking behavior, but it's practically criminal, isn't it? Especially with prize money at stake.

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    1. Well, there's that too! But it's just plain wrong.

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  16. I feel like cheating is so discouraged amongst the running community that you couldn't even tell your running friends if you tried to pull this kind of crap. Maybe your neighbor wouldn't care if you cheated to get into Boston, but it will make you an instant pariah with any runner. And to think they took the spots of people who actually qualified for Boston fair and square. Infuriating.

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    1. Clearly these people don't care about anyone but themselves!

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  17. Cheating is a disgrace. I can't believe why anyone would do it. Running a race isn't everything especially if you cheat. The sense of accomplishment is gone for cheaters. It's just not right. I don't get how one could live with it.

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    1. I just wonder that if these people do such a good job of deceiving others that they deceive themselves? As a person who feels guilty about everything, I don't know how that could happen.

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  18. I can't even imagine cheating, it's absolutely unexcuseable. And as a runner who's goal is Boston, it makes me sick to know that there are people running that don't deserve to.

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    1. And taking spots from runners who do deserve it! As someone who will be lucky to qualify, missing the cutoff because of a cheater would really make me mad!

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  19. Loved this post, thanks! I've been following all of these cheaters, and now with the Alberto Salazar doping scandal...it seems there may be more of our professional heroes to add to this list! Disgusting!

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    1. It makes me so sad! But I'll just keep calling them out.

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  20. Great post! Yeah, don't understand why people cheat. Definitely not worth it. Oh, and I did not know about the bib on the leg. Interesting.

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    1. I didn't know that it was verboten...but yes, it's frowned upon!

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  21. Laughing out loud at the cheetah joke :) It's one of those days. Thanks for the laugh!

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