How do you get to run in the Boston Marathon? Cheat


Are you heading for the Boston Marathon on Monday? Did you cheat to get there?

Runners World reports today that it’s uncovered cheating at qualifying marathons, thanks in part to a Facebook post a man in Pennsylvania made last year, lamenting that his kid’s absence from school to watch him in the marathon wouldn’t be excused.

That invited a look at the father’s marathoning records and marathon fans take this stuff pretty seriously. They analyzed his previous times in other marathons and even searched for photos of him running in marathons he said he ran.

A business analyst in Cincinnati developed an algorithm to look at Boston Marathon results to figure out how many runners finished at least 20 minutes slower than the times they had in qualifying races. He figured out that more than 2,000 runners fit the profile and, of those, nearly 50 have been proven to have cheated.

Unfortunately, Runners World is refusing to release their names.

One of the runners identified by Murphy was the firefighter who cut the course at his qualifying race. Over two telephone conversations, he explained why he did so. Runner’s World agreed not to name him.

He said he’d been close to qualifying at two previous marathons, but injuries slowed him. His sister, also a runner and a Boston Marathon qualifier, hoped one day they could finish the iconic race together.

In November 2013, the firefighter planned on qualifying at a certified marathon. By mile 16, he knew he was off pace. He came to a section of the course that turned right for a two-mile out-and-back leg. Across the intersection, in front of runners returning from the section, he eyed a port-a-potty and ducked inside.

“When I came out I saw guys going right and thought, ‘I could do two more miles, or I could roll the dice,’” he said. “So that’s what I did.”

The marathon had four mats capturing timing information from chips on every runner’s bib. The race’s results show that the firefighter crossed all four of those mats. He averaged 9:18 per mile for the first half marathon. But between mile 13.1 and mile 20, the results show he ran 4:12 per mile pace, impossible splits.

One cheater who was identified is Gia Alvarez, who blogs at RunGiaRun. She admitted in a blog post that she gave her Boston Marathon bib to another runner because she’d had a baby and was unable to run in the race.

However someone did run with that bib. I gave it to a friend. I didn’t sell my bib, she didn’t pay a dime for it and I didn’t pay her to run with it. I gave it to her with the thought that someone should love the bib. Someone should enjoy the miles that I worked so hard for. It was a stupid thing to do, but I swear it was entirely innocent.

Based on an “anonymous tip” the BAA found out. They had photo proof that I wasn’t the runner who ran with my bib. This breaks their rules and disqualifies me from running in any further BAA races.

My heart is broken. I’m embarrassed and ashamed.

I did what so many of us do, we transfer bibs that are non-transferable. Some even sell them. We think it’s innocent, we don’t think we will get caught.

I know I broke the rules and therefore fault no one but myself. I take full ownership of this. BUT let me be an example, I hope that other runners are reading this and think twice before they make a mistake like i did. Don’t get yourself get disqualified from a race series, it’s a terrible feeling.

The cheating is out in the open, Runners World suggests. People who want other runners’ bibs post their “classifieds” on marathoning bulletin boards like this one.

“It’s like letting someone take the law school exam for you, then using that score to go to Harvard,” Les Smith, a lawyer and an event director for the Portland Marathon, tells Runners World.

  • tboom
  • Dan

    What Mrs. Alvarez did was sort of the opposite of cheating to get in… she legitimately qualified (twice), then let someone else run it, who hadn’t. So, sort of complicit in someone else’s cheating. I doubt she’s going around telling people her friend’s time was her own — what would be the point?

    It’s not surprising that a lot of people sell their bibs. There tons of reasons why you might not be able to run, most commonly injury during training. Races seldom (never?) offer refunds or a way to do a legitimate transfer. So not only are you out of all your time and hard work, you’re also out a couple hundred bucks. I honestly don’t blame them.

    People who cheat to qualify, OTOH, sort of missing the whole point IMO.

  • Angry Jonny

    My fiancé, a most definitely legit qualifier, is flying out today to run her first Boston.