Thursday, April 24, 2014

Liar liar pants on fire


Yesterday, while perusing my running pages on Facebook, I came across this post:

Look closely. What do these 4 runners have in common?

If you noticed that they are all wearing the same bib number, you are a winner!

The story behind this post is that the runner in all her excitement about running Boston, posted her bib on Instagram the night before the marathon. Yesterday while going through her race photos, pictures of these runners along with her pictures came up. At that point, she realized what happened. Obviously, these 4 runners made their own bibs out out her picture and ran the race. And took medals at the finish! 

Now being the intrepid journalist that I am, I looked up her finish time, and it was a very respectable 3:31:41. But whose finish time was it, really? Actually, the bandits wouldn't have been timed because they didn't have a chip. But still?

Who does this?

Runners are notoriously honest. To a fault, when asked our finish times after a race, we quote it down to the last second. For example, a runner would answer about a marathon time like this: "oh, I finished that race in 3:14:159265359". Because that's how we are.

But there are dishonest runners, just like any other sport. And so I bring you:


"Why run when I can take the train?"
In 1980, Rosie Ruiz completed the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:31:56. Apparently after starting the race, she hopped on the subway and exited close to finish line, where she crossed first. Suspicions mounted as no one on the racecourse recalled seeing her run. In addition, stories swirled about her qualifying race in the New York City Marathon as well.

"You wanted bling?"
Outside magazine named this man, Dean Reinke, the shadiest man in the racing business. Reinke has a road race company, USRA, but has failed to deliver several times, taking runners' money and cancelling the races. Races that have been run log long lists of complaints from shoddy race amenities to failure of USRA to pay its bills and the charities it promotes. The article is long but a great read.

"No one remembers their first time"
Paul Ryan, who ran as Mitt Romney's VP candidate in 2012, is not shy about his dedication to fitness. He ran Grandma's marathon in 1990, and when asked about his finish time, claimed to not remember his exact time, but estimated it was "under three, high twos". After an investigation by Runner's World magazine, he actually admitted to a finish time of 4:01.

"In my mind, I've run a marathon in every state"
Kip Litton is a Michigan dentist who has posted multiple impressive marathon times; sub 3 hour times. The problem is that other racers never saw him on the race course. The New Yorker wrote a lengthy but again very interesting expose on Litton. In addition to multiple disqualifications for shortcutting races, some of his reported marathon finish times were for races that never happened; races that were made up! Nothing has ever been proven but his marathon prowess doesn't seem to add up.

There are other stories, but these are the most notorious of late. And how about bandits? Peter Segal, a regular Runners World contributer, confessed several years ago that he has banditted many races. His argument is that banditting is not equivalent to theft, that there are no victims, and that since running is all about fellowship, he just was joining in the fun. Sigh. I don't agree. And I'd say these runners who stole the bib number are pretty stealthy bandits indeed. Amby Burfoot, probably one of the most well known and humble distance runners of our time, wrote a beautiful essay several years ago for the New York Times. And I quote: 

"For true distance runners, to lie about time or distance is to lie to ourselves, to diminish the importance of the many sacrifices we make to reach the starting line. Focus and discipline form the core of a runner’s being; they are what make us put on a reflective vest and run six miles into the sleet at 6 on a dark winter morning."

"As aging marathoners, we know that our slowing times don’t diminish us. Like many of our friends, we run and compete for personal reasons. We have learned to take the measure of ourselves, and not to let others define who we are."
and this:

"When we run, we will ourselves to be the best we can be. That is all that matters. Our tribe expects nothing less."

Runners who cheat, who lie, hurt all of us. Wouldn't it be great to see this?

What do you think about runners who cheat? Do they hurt all runners, the sport of running, or just themselves? Have you ever banditted (is that a word?) a race? How do you feel about people who bandit? 


  1. Wow that is so crappy to steal a bib from a picture. That'll make me think twice about posting bibs. Geez. I've never been a bandit. I can't imagine doing it at a race like Boston. I'd know I was a fraud and the meaning of the achievement just wouldn't be there.

    1. That's the the end of the day, you have to look yourself in the mirror. I just couldn't do it and feel good about it.

  2. Oh my gosh! How awful that people did that! She must have posted a very good, high res pic of her bib!

    I am really against banditting, and against people buying someone else's bib off them since they can't run. I am not sure why the two bother me so much. I guess it bugs me when people try to get away with things, instead of being honest.

    I think the cheaters mostly hurt themselves, except when they claim to win or when they are "hosting" shady races that never happen!

    1. I think you are right, they are mostly hurting themselves but I worry that this is going to grow as these big races continue to get more popular!

  3. The weird thing is that when you look at the bib number, and the runner's name, Bonneau on Marathon Foto (the official photographer of the race) the owner of the bib is not anyone in your pictures. So, I question the original post. I think it is a hoax. The only runner who comes up under that bib is the same girl, and again, she isn't the one you point out in your post.

    1. Weird! I did look up her number tho, that was the number she ran under. Maybe there were 4 runners who stole her number? If it was a hoax, why would they be wearing the same number? Hmmm....

    2. I did read the supposed post from the girl this morning and someone had mentioned not seeing the pictures of these people anymore and how you can only see hers now...she said that she had removed the photos because she didn't want them to be able to enjoy the pictures. But now that I think about it...I never knew you could delete your photos off of those sites...hmmm.

  4. It boggles my mind that anything you print off Instagram is not high resolution. Those bibs look pretty Fricken amazing looking for counterfeit.

    1. They sure do! But people do some pretty amazing things with technology these days. Too bad they can't apply it to something useful!

  5. I understand, of course, that what they did was wrong. I think that like I said in my post, I'm just disappointed in the way the running community has responded. We can rise above it.

    1. I completely agree, which is why I chose the humorous route to deal with it!