Couple Cuts Courses and Forges Bib to Run Boston Marathon

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This article was originally posted in April, 2016. I am updating this because both of The Donnelly’s have registered for the 2017 Boston marathon. Presumably they are using their times from the 2015 Surfer’s Point Marathon.

9/22/16
I have received confirmation from Surfer’s Point RD that the Connelly’s are being disqualified, making their Boston entry invalid. Boston has been notified of this decision. They will be removed from the list of entries.

Jeff Donnelly was flagged as part of The Boston Project. He ran Boston in 4:28:04, and qualified at the 2014 Desert Classic Marathon in 3:27:49.  The Desert Classic marathon is run at the same time as the half marathon. The half marathon is run on an out and back loop, while the marathon consists of 2 loops.

Jeff running with a 2:30:00 half marathoner
Jeff with a runner confirmed to be his wife – Sheri

The first picture is damning given the nature of the course. If Jeff had run this marathon in 3:27:49 it is difficult to conceive how he would have been running with a 2:30:00 half marathon runner.

Edit: the course is an out and back for both the half and full marathon. It is implausible that a 3:27:49 marathoner would be running next to a 2-1/2 hour half marathoner.

The 2nd photo also raised suspicions during the investigation. It was confirmed that the woman in that photo is Jeff’s wife, Sheri. She is listed with an identical time as Jeff, but for the 1/2 marathon. I received confirmation that she was registered for the full, but they dropped her down to the 1/2 marathon, because her time would have been the 1st female, and they knew she didn’t win. While Jeff won his Age Group, his time was not flagged.

I started looking through their other results and photos from races. Jeff had no photos during Boston 2015, but plenty during 2014. The picture below shows him with his wife wearing bib #5855.

Searching the results and photos for Sheri’s time, it is revealed that Sheri did not earn that bib. In fact, she forged it. Jeff’s bib was # 5895, and the copy is bib # 5855. This would be easy to pull off having Jeff’s bib to copy. The actual runner was a 42 year old male – there were plenty of photos of him to verify that he ran the race.

Working my way back some more, we find Jeff’s qualifier for 2014 – it had to be a very fast time given the low bib #.

In 2010, he got his qualifying time at Humpy’s Classic Marathon

There are no results or splits available for this marathon.

Jeff ran Boston 4 times total – 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015.

Sheri has no official Boston results, but we know she ran it in 2014 with the forged bib.

Jeff and Sheri are both registered for the 2016 Boston Marathon. They used the 2014 Buckeye Marathon to qualify. There were no mats at this marathon for that race. 

Additional Findings

2015
They ran the half marathon Desert Classic that year, and they started 16 minutes late – no one else had that type of differential. They would have had to passed practically everyone on the course. The theory is that they started late to try to go unnoticed.

2015
Big Wildlife Run – Sheri was disqualified for course cutting. She does not show in the current results. I confirmed this disqualification with the Race Director.

2015
Surfers Point Marathon – Both of the Donnelly’s have a BQ time here which will qualify them for Boston ’17. UPDATE: They have registered for Boston ’17. Splits cannot be confirmed. However, the one oddity is that Jeff is wearing two shirts and reversed them at some point on the course.

9/21/2016 – I have emailed Surfer’s Point asking them to investigate Jeff and Sheri’s 2015 race times and consider their history of confirmed course cutting to consider disqualifying them. I also emailed Boston asking them to consider action based on the bib forgery in 2014 as well as their history of disqualifications.

2016
I have confirmation that the Desert Classic marathon added a mat on the course. They missed this mat and were disqualified.

I have forwarded all the information on the Donnelly’s to the BAA and the other appropriate races.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Next time I'm in Mesa I'm going to express my displeasure to them.
    I'm told they are usually at the Old Country Buffet in booth 107.

    Let's hope the BAA DQ's them soon.

  2. I saw your comment about them starting 16 minutes late. For what it's worth, Kip Litton had the same MO. Depending on the size of the race, it may impossible to start that far back and post times in the starting miles consistent with a 3:30ish finish time because of all the people you have to plow through. For a marathon with a few hundred people, this isn't a problem. For a marathon of a few (or more) thousand people, this is a sign that something's wrong.

  3. Regarding the Surfer's Point 2015 race (which seems like a fun event), it's curious, though not conclusive, that there is no first loop photo of him on the course as there are for the gentlemen finishing before and after him (#1257 and #1144).

  4. Thank you for this website. I've been attempting to qualify for Boston for about 4 years now. Although it's disheartening to see a couple year after year displace others who would have earned a spot legitimately, I feel hopeful that the running community is doing a better job at finding these individuals.

  5. I busted Sheri course cutting in the 2014 Moose's Tooth Marathon. She tried to hide it by registering as a male. I brought it to the RD'S attention and she was dropped from the results. I guess some people never change.

  6. Here are their times for the 2016 Boston Marathon:

    Jeff: 4:33:47
    Sheri: 5:48:29 (not exactly the time you'd expect for a 1:31 half marathoner)

  7. Thank you for your great effort to trace and identify these cheaters. I am speechless at this couple's shamelessness, and also at race directors' lack of willingness to take actions.

  8. OMG!! This is hilarious! #1 red flag is a person's body composition (lean and fast, heavy and slow).

    There is NO WAY someone his size would be putting down a 3:27 marathon or even be in the 1st wave (red bibs) at Boston… 5th corral are marathoners running sub-3 hours… they are lean…small.

    Yes I know runners come in all shapes and sizes… but those running in the front to front-end pack are lean…not carrying a lot of belly fat. Having raced 3 dozen marathons (in the 3:20s mind you) and just as many 21ks, I know what the race field looks like and you can tell the speedsters (red bibs) from the rest.

  9. THAT'S HORRIBLE!! Taking 2 slots from someone who legitimately deserve them… and 1st day registration are those sub-20 BQ… no way these two can even run a 4 hour marathon.

  10. And they had a red bib, 5th corral numbers… LOL!!!! they were about twice the time someone who wears that number would actually finish.

  11. First off these cheaters are scum in my opinion, but in response to your statement I would be careful to judge a runner based on body composition. Personally as a 2:58 marathoner who has lost 190(ish)lbs. I carry a lot of extra skin/fat around my midsection. I would say I do not look like your typical sub 3 marathoner, but I did it. I even had a guy that I was passing in the Akron marathon one year tell me "Aren't you a little thick in the mid-section to be a marathoner…". So in conclusion don't judge a book by its cover or a runner by the way they look.

  12. Well done on this one and on the cheating couple from the other thread. Three dq's in one week. Boston must like you just for the free non-refundable entries they have gotten from these pretenders.

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