How to Cheat in a Race and Not Get Caught (SATIRE)

First of all, because people have a hard time detecting sarcasm in written text, most of this post is satirical and is meant for humorous purposes only.

I DO NOT CONDONE CHEATING.

Hey, the drama llama is back in town! Many of you by now heard about the New York blogger who cheated at the Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon by cutting the course short and tried to take credit for a 2nd place overall finish. This story is more fascinating than usual to my friends and me because the girl is a local. She used to run with another running club (they kicked her out because of this incident) and some of my friends in PPTC were familiar with her. She is well known in the NYC running scene and a familiar face in the NYRR races. In all honesty, it’s a damn shame that she did this because she is a talented runner and now she destroyed her reputation.

*****************Everything below is written tongue in cheek.******************

Cheating in races or in any competition is nothing new. As long as people think that the benefits outweigh the consequences and that the probability of getting caught are low, people will cheat. Unfortunately for some cheaters, they will get caught. Let’s take a look at some of the people who got caught cheating and see what lessons we can learn in order to improve our own odds of not getting caught.

Tips on How to Get Away with Cheating in a Race

  • Have incredible hubris that you can outsmart several people who are hellbent on catching you. You’ll need it because some of those people will be experts in areas where you are not an expert and therefore they will have knowledge, and therefore know where to look for incriminating information that you won’t realize that you need to cover up.
  • Look like a fast runner. Pat Huffman’s race time was fast, but in her photos her gait resembles that of a slow runner. You’re going to have a hard time convincing people that you ran an elite time if you look like a heffalump. If you’re looking for motivation for losing weight, this might be it.
  • Look like you actually ran hard. No one looks fresh as a daisy after racing hard. Rosie Ruiz crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon without any sweat. Dump water over your head. Mess up your hair. Wear a lot of clothes and do some sprints to force yourself to sweat. Look and act exhausted when you cross the finish line.
  • Don’t wear too much clothing. Roberto Madrazo wore a jacket and running tights in 60-degree weather while everyone else was wearing t-shirts and shorts. He stuck out like a sore thumb and a photographer outed him right away.
  • Calculate a plausible race-of-your-life time. Mike Rossi got caught because there was nothing in his running background that supported his supposed BQ time at the Lehigh Marathon. The McMillan Calculation gives you race time equivalents for different distances. Put in your best race time and see what McMillan gives you for race time equivalents at other distances. Subtract a plausible stretch time for your desired distance, like 15-30 seconds for a 5K, 3 minutes for a half. This way people will just think you had the race of your life. If you have a consistent history of being a 28-min 5K runner and suddenly you run a sub-15 5K, EVERYONE will wonder and NO ONE will buy that this was just simply your day. Of course, if you get caught cheating for simply shaving off a little bit of time, be prepared for the fact that you will be ridiculed and shamed for cheating for very small gains.
  • Know where the timing mats are and calculate plausible race splits. Kip Litton, in one of his many races, ran an improbable negative split where the second half was almost 2 min faster per mile than the first half. At the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon, several people were DQ’ed because they ran impossible splits (including finishing the second half a marathon in 17 minutes). At the 2016 Honolulu Marathon, there was a guy who supposedly ran over 15 miles at 3:46 mile pace.
  • Don’t run with your Garmin. Say that you like to run by feel. The smoking gun in Jane Seo’s downfall was her own Garmin. In a high-res photo, the Garmin clearly shows the total distance that she actually ran. Also she tried to cover up the fact that she cheated the course by biking the half marathon course in the afternoon. Because she owns one of the higher end Garmins, it also gives you information about cadence. This is too much information that you would have to fake. It’s not just Garmin that will rat you out, Tom-Tom will too. Remember KISS, Keep It Simple, Stupid.
  • Don’t load anything onto Strava. The flyby feature on Strava revealed that Marlon Bascombe cut the course. Unless you’re a computer programmer who’s very skilled at manipulating these type of data, you’re better off not having to worry about it by not having a social media presence. Again, remember KISS.
  • Hire people who look like you, and dress them in the same race clothes and bib that you’ll be wearing (remember to place the bibs in the same location for all of your clones). The two common red flags that incriminate the cheaters are missed timing mats and lack of photos out on the course. The missed timing mats could potentially be explained by a malfunction of the timing chip or the mat, but the missing timing mats with the lack of photos of the runner out of the course suggest course cutting. In order to avoid this suspicion, have people who look like you out on the course where their photos can be taken. Just make sure that they’re out on the course during the time that they need to be in the area for a particular race split. It doesn’t help if they’re photographed with slower runners whose race splits are significantly slower than your supposed race splits.
  • Hire a bib mule who looks like you. If you’re a woman, but photos of a male bib mule show up, it’s gonna be difficult to explain.
  • Run the Honolulu Marathon. Cheating is tolerated at this race.

What are some of your tips on cheating at a race? 

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19 thoughts on “How to Cheat in a Race and Not Get Caught (SATIRE)

    • I just don’t understand how people think it’s worth cheating over something so little. Not that I condone what Lance Armstrong did, but I can understand his motives. I just don’t understand how people justify cheating for something minor when the blowback is so much greater. The thought of public humiliation, even when it’s contained to only my friends and family, is sufficient to keep me straight (as well as wanting to do the right thing).

  1. So….what you’re say is it’s basically impossible to get away with cheating? And maybe that it’s kind of really stupid?! Seriously, the one thing that annoys the heck out of me is that running is never about the racing and especially not about the winning. One of the greatest things about this sport is that you are always racing against yourself. Isn’t that enough? Why the heck would you want a “fake win?”

    • Definitely stupid to cheat and then try to deny it because there’ll be too much evidence against you that you won’t be able to cover up. I’m sure in races there’s a fair amount of cheating, but most of it it’s very low stakes and doesn’t matter (e.g., getting a water bottle from a friend spectating, wearing headphones and listening to music when it’s not allowed), but cheating to get an AG, BQ, or overall win is much harder to get away with because there’ll be several people who care.

      In the most recent incident, it’s clear that she’s a high achiever and a perfectionist based on her past (I did a bit of internet stalking before she shut down all of her social media accounts). The cheating, IMO, is an outgrowth of her fear of failure.

  2. I can kind of see when you’re at the elite level and every second counts and the pressure you’re under is unreal. I’m not saying I agree with it, but it makes more sense as to why someone would cheat at that level, but for this? I’m sure she’s really really regretting this now. Cheating is way too much work in my mind. Although I like the idea of bib clones.

    • Derek of Marathon Investigation thought she cheated to get into the Dashing Whippets’ Performance Team. DW is a very competitive running club in NYC. Anyone can join the club, but you have to meet fairly stringent race times to be on the Performance Team and I can imagine that being on the Performance Team is analogous to being with the “cool kids.”

  3. I’ll never understand cheaters. I feel like living with the guilt itself would destroy me, and also make me feel super empty any time someone praised me for something I knew I didn’t/couldn’t actually do. (Also, it’s just dumb. It’s so easy now to get caught if there is ANY reason for someone to suspect.)

    • Me too. Athlinks has my 5K PR being 22:XX, which I never claim as my 5K PR. I did run that race, but the course was super short. I could tell people that’s my 5K PR and there’s no way for them to disprove it because that race is now defunct, but I don’t want to claim credit for something I didn’t do.

  4. I was talking about this with a friend the other day and I just don’t get how anyone can cut the course without being noticed! Even in remote sections, there are always people nearby. Maybe they pretend they’re going off to pee or something? (Also if I tried to cut a course, I’d probably take a wrong turn, get lost and end up adding time.)
    My friend said you gotta be slow enough so that no one cares– if I went from a 1:58 to a 1:53 HM, no one would bat an eye. It’s when you win races or BQ that you draw attention. (Of course, then what’s the point? lol)

    • People who are more familiar with the course than I am said that the cutting was not accidental, but pre-planned based on where she cut. It’s not like it was an out-n-back where it would be easy to run to the median to “tie” your shoelaces and then go in the other direction. She knew where the route would snake around so as she’s running in one direction, the route is a few blocks away going in the other direction. She probably made it seem as if she’s quitting the race, or has cramps, or something. Then she cuts the course and rejoins by making it seem she had to tie her shoelace or stretch.

      A part of the reason why this reached the epic portions that it did is the lengths she went through to try to cover it up. Had she ‘fessed up right away, none of this would have happened.

  5. I can’t believe the length that some people go to. I think there are some race rules that need to be modified to benefit runners (bib tranfer, race deferral, etc) but other than that, I can’t see the benefits of some of the stories that come out. Its crazy.

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