Race Cheating

A few days ago I read a post by Coach Cane.  After the NYCM last month I remember reading several tweets about finding people who cheated during the marathon.  Since I was close to seeing the light I couldn’t even imagine knowing where exactly to cut corners and not being caught, ect.  I also didn’t and still don’t know the course very well.  Finally it never occurred to me to cheat during a road race, then essentially I would have continue cheating the rest of my life to maintain my cheated times.

But there are plenty of people who cut corners or miles in road races.

It really made me think about the actual benefit to cheating yourself and cutting a corner (or few miles) in a road race.  In many smaller road races it is easily feasible, especially if you know the course well.  All you have to do is run down a side street and suddenly you’ve cut off a mile or 10.  In a big marathon like New York City with timing mats every mile and people scouring the results?  Not so much.

Part of me doesn’t understand and will never understand why someone would cheat during a road race.  If you are competing for yourself, why cheat?  Why put in so much time and effort and then produce a result you cannot even claim is yours?  Then if you choose to run another race you would have to cheat again to gain the same results?  Because you cheated and ran a “PR” you must cheat again or you will probably not “run” that time again.

How about cheating to get into Boston?

Gaining a BQ because you only ran 22 miles…does that make it more worthy?

I guess to me it’s both sad and disheartening that races must now hire or find people to weed out cheaters.   The reason I love running so much is you are truly running for yourself and no one else.  Your times are for you and you alone.  Since the vast majority of runners are not professional why is there even a need to cheat?

Question for you: Thoughts? 

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  1. Great post! I don’t understand the need to cheat either – what’s the point in paying to run a race if you’re only planning on running part of it?

  2. It’s like you are cheating yourself more than anything. That’s just crazy to me!

  3. It amazes me that people would cheat in a race. Running is such an individual sport, what’s the point in cheating? It makes no sense to me because you would always know you can’t actually run those times. I remember a girl on my xc team in high school stopping by a rock and waiting for us to come back through so she could finish the race and it bothered me back then, but she also wasn’t doing it to run a faster time; she was just plain lazy. Morally I just don’t understand peoples’ thought processes with that, but maybe I’m also a time-oriented person and it would bother me that I could never run a PR if I cheated.

  4. I once cut a course!

    It was because a car was blocking the trail and race staff directed us around it. I wound up about 0.05 miles short. And I STILL feel lame about it, even though 1. the actual race course was blocked and 2. the race staff told me to do it.

    I can’t imagine doing so on purpose and trying to get away with it. To prove what? Rarely are the deliberate course cutters winning any prizes – those folks are usually followed by a bike escort, etc. So what do you gain, besides a fake time in Athlinks?

    I think the answer is that these people – particularly the systemic cheaters like Kip Litton – are addicted to the thrill of getting away with cheating. They enjoy plotting and executing the course cutting. Psychopothy is fascinating.

    1. Ohhh that’s a interesting thought! Cheating for the thrill of cheating. But I wonder if those same people would actually admit to cheating?
      I guess I can understand the motive to cheat to get a BQ, but wouldn’t it be much more rewarding to actually have the ability to legitimately run one? I guess that’s a mindset I don’t understand (nor really want to).

      1. It’s a mindset you don’t understand because you don’t have a deep psychological disorder that compels you to behave in such a manner.

        Those who cheat in these races are likely similar to those who shoplift despite having more money than they could ever need. It’s the act, the compulsion, etc.

      2. You might be right about cheating for the thrill of cheating. When I was a kid I used to cheat at board games (against my siblings) just to see how long I could do it before they caught me. It made a boring game more interesting…. that being said, I was a kid, it was board games, I don’t understand the compulsion to pay race fees and then only run part of a race.

  5. This irks me so much. I compare it to the countless yards spent during swim practice. Yeah here and there I may have skipped a 50 during the 1600 warmup but when it came down to the main set, you wouldn’t catch me EVER cutting yards. It belittles your accomplishments. I just don’t understand the point–if you’re loving what you’re doing, which you’ve got to love running to willing sign up for a marathon, then WHY intentionally cut miles? Blows my mind.

    Rant over.

  6. 99% of us run against our selves and that is it. What could you possibly accomplish by cheating? I think cheating is just stupid and a waste of effort.
    I had a race get cancelled due to an ocean storm flooding the streets. They still gave us the shirts and a finishers medal. I know they couldn’t use those items for another race, but I feel awckward wearing the shirt as I didn’t run the race. There was no accomplishment to be proud of.
    In cheating, you cheat yourself.

  7. During training, I think a lot of people fall victim to “cutting,” including me; I’ve definitely skipped a cooldown mile after a running workout or “forgot” to do a 200yd pull during a swimming session, but when it’s race day, I always play by the rules. I just can’t wrap my head around cheating or cutting during a race–what does it prove?

    1. Swimming is the easiest sport to cheat in I think. Sometimes it just comes down to counting correctly. That being said I always hated when the boys in my lane would cheat their way through practice. I mean seriously here I am still swimming and you are standing at the wall like goobers for me to finish like 200 more yards…

  8. Whoa. I would never have even considered cheating in a race. How do you even go about doing that without getting caught? Did you really mean to say “miles” that people cut out? That’s crazy!

    I know in grade school I always felt guilty if I ever looked over at someone’s homework assignment and saw an answer. Accidentally or not, it made me feel sick and horrible for the rest of the day. I still remember the occasions when I did so too, most vividly one on accident where to make up for it I just didn’t answer the question so I would make sure to lose the point. Haha.

    How do you manage that mentally to tell your friends and family your race time knowing that you lied? Unfathomable.

    1. A lot of marathon courses you could cut out miles if you were swift about it. I honestly doubt people who cut the course are debating telling their friends and family but who really knows.

      1. Just wow. I’m kind of astounded by this.

        And that’s what I mean about telling friends and family- how do you lie like that and still feel like a moral person? I’m an awful liar.

  9. Anytime there exists something that is socially valued, people will strive to be there, whether there’s money or not involved. Faster times are more highly valued among one’s friends and acquaintances, so…

  10. I recall a USCG “5K” a few years ago where for about 30 seconds after we crossed the finish we all though we ran PRs only to compare Garmins and find the course .3 miles short. Sure we all ran the same route so the o/a and a/g standings were valid but we all felt “cheated” by the short course. Most of us complain about long courses for the same reason…we are running against ourselves for the most part and paid for accurate timing over a specific distance.

    1. I agree Gene. (Did you do the memorial scholarship 5k in 2012 that had similar problems?)

      I think we complain about long courses but I would rather a long course than a short course I guess.

    2. Totally agree. My 5k PR is on a course that was about that short and first I was thrilled by now I’m just bummed because I can’t in good conscience say that’s my best time. I can’t wait to break that time on a legit 5k course to wipe the PR slate clean!

  11. I have no clue why someone would cheat in a race. I guess a BQ time or something like that, maybe that would be tempting, but the majority of the races I do are local and you would not benefit by cheating at all, you might get a faster time or possibly an award but they are usually charity races anyway.

    Now, if someone on the course directs you the wrong way, something is not marked, or the course is short… that is really out of your hands. If the course is short, it’s short for everyone- I don’t think that’s cheating but I don’t know that I’d really “claim” it as a PR.

    Plus… unless you are going to the Olympics or you run for a team… typically no one really cares about times. Your friends, family, etc, will not care if you ran the 5K in 20 minutes or 30 minutes, you did it and the people that matter will appreciate the effort.

  12. It makes me ill thinking about people cheating in races. I don’t get it one bit. I loved the articles reference to Kip. The most famous cheater of them all. Idk, it doesn’t make sense to me one bit. Whats the point of not earning what you get (i.e. BQ, or whatever).

    Another example of this— SR running races for other people in order to get them a better qualifying time or better corral. LAME.

  13. Although I cannot imagine cheating, I’m sure it happens all the time. Not sure how you could be proud of yourself for a PR, knowing that you didn’t actually earn it. I usually end up doing just the opposite. If I go out to run 10 miles and my Garmin beeps at 10, I will run 10.02 just to make sure I actually got the 10 and not 9.999.

  14. I remember over hearing a lady who said she cheated every Wicked 10k. Really?! Why?! I also had a lady cut a course once during a local XC race series. I made a point to hunt her down and pass her in the last quarter mile. Cheaters suck. They aren’t “real runners”.

  15. Sometimes egos drive people to say and do stupid things. It’s all for the ego boost. Most people don’t have a conscious to care it’s a totally false PR time.

  16. I don’t understand it at all. For the “average” runner, why would you need to, this is for you and if you cheat to do it, what have you really gained? Also, I couldn’t imagine Boston qualifying by cheating- what do you do once you get there? Cheat again? As baffling it is, I guess the only people truly missing out are the cheaters themselves.

  17. I got lost on a trail during a half marathon and to this day have no idea if I cut or added mileage to my run since GPS watches are totally inaccurate in most trails. Pretty sure I threw on some extra but will never know. Considering how bad I felt about that instance I cannot imagine intentionally cheating.
    I just cannot fathom the mind set of a cheater.

  18. I’m also astounded by this…I guess that makes me pretty naive 😛 I teach college students and am astounded by the amount of effort they will go to in order to “get around” an assingment. Often times, they exert a lot more energy than it would take to actually do the assignment. Then, I grade essays written by parents or meet teachers who’ve gotten in trouble bc of cheating on standardized tests…many times bc they’ve been told to follow unethical procedures by their administration…and then I’m not surprised anymore that some people would actually cheat against themselves in a race. I think it’s our culture…I really do. Somewhere along the lines we’ve stopped looking at “cheating” as a bad thing. If there’s a shortcut, take it. I still don’t understand this kind of mindset, but I’m trying not to let it shock me so much. Cheating in races makes me just plain sad.

    1. I am pretty naive too so when I saw they had people to catch cheaters, I was honestly a little bit shocked! I think you are right though, somewhere in a culture it has become better to be right versus doing it a moral or decent way.

  19. There was a race a couple of years ago where it turned out the WINNER had actually dropped out of the marathon early on into the race and gotten on a bus to go home. The bus had taken a route parallel with the lead runners…the guy had thought “Actually I can do this!” Lept out and ended up coming in first! It was only found out later when his chip checkpoint times didn’t add up!

  20. Oh wow.. To be honest, I hadn’t ever considered the possibility of cheating in a road race — I didn’t even know it could be done. I’m with you on this one though… cheating once means you have to keep cheating forever, and what good is a PR when you know it isn’t even real. Better to train hard and have an accomplishment that you can actually be proud of.

  21. Wow. If you’re going to cheat at a race, you have some serious issues going on! Unbelievable, what happened to hard work and getting out of things what you put into them?!

  22. I ran a 5K for Valentine’s Day in 2010, (I think), that was an out and back course. I was the second female the entire time, which is easy to see, when the lead runners turn around run towards you. At the awards ceremony, they called the 2nd place overall woman, and it wasn’t me. I was so pissed. The girl, who had never ran a race before, (I checked Athlinks), had not actually ran to the turn around. After the the real top 3 women complained, and talked to the timing company, they gave me the correct medal. The girl was all pissed, acting like WE were cheating. I am still bitter about it! Seriously, what do you have to gain from cheating a 5K, and winning a $2 medal? Grrr.

  23. The beauty of running track is it is very hard to cheat there, unless you count the insane dive to the finish line some sprinters and hurdlers do. But yeah, I mean… look, people will cheat at anything. Running is a sport that means different things to different people. Some want to engage in an honest head-to-head competition for the joy of pushing themselves to the limit; others want bragging rights (some want both–no shame!). I can understand why someone would cheat, just as I can understand why someone would cut corners at their job. I just wouldn’t do it myself because I couldn’t sleep at night if I did. I think most people’s moral decisions come down to that.

  24. People do that?! What the heck?! What is the POINT?? That’s like, really sad. And it would be crazy because like you said, you’d have to cheat at every race to keep beating your times. Wow.

  25. The idea never would even occur to me! Running is for you and only you (unless you are super elite or something) why bother getting a “time” that isn’t even feasible! You will have know way of seeing progress!

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