I was first made aware of “Linda” and her husband a couple of months ago. It did appear that her husband had carried her bib in some races, but I didn’t see the motivation. There was no Boston Qualifying time, so I set aside the information with intentions of monitoring future races.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I was digging deep into The Philadelphia Marathon for a story.
When the results came in from Philadelphia, I did find about a dozen of obvious course cutters with Boston qualifying times. As I was going through each runner in more detail, I was pleasantly surprised to see most were already removed from the official results.
Linda was in the results. Once again her husband carried her chip. Only now, she had a Boston Qualifying time. She proudly posted this on Facebook. Only she did not run the time, her husband did. She did run the race, but without a chip. Her husband carried it for her. He did not appear in the results. It was apparent that he removed his chip, and carried Linda’s.
It took some effort to find contact information for Linda, but I emailed her on Wednesday morning. Initially I got no response. After one more attempt she responded and we agreed to talk Thursday morning. Had she not responded, this would have been more of the standard article, full of race photos and detailed analysis.
It was clear early in our initial conversation that she was shaken due to my contacting her and the prospect of being ‘outed’. She shared some very intimate details about her life and how running had an impact. I decided during our conversation that I would not post anything that could be used to identify her. Maybe I was being played, but I didn’t think so. Over the past year or so, I think I’ve learned to discern from someone that will say anything to me to keep me from writing an article, to someone who truly regrets their actions.
I let Linda know early the next morning that I would not post anything that would compromise her identity. I also let her know that I wanted to write a different type of article. I asked if she would write her story so that others could understand what may lead someone to cheat. Linda was under no obligation or pressure to cooperate. I made it clear that her participation in this story was in no way a condition of my protecting her anonymity.
Here is Linda’s story.
“Running, as for most people, has always been a form of therapy for me. In high school and college, running was my meditation and escape from life’s pressures. As I would sweat, I could feel the tension releasing from my body. I had suffered from an eating disorder since I was 12 years old, so running was always my excuse why I couldn’t have dinner with my family or roommates. Running was cathartic.
Then real life happened….working long hours, getting married and having children forced me to give up running. I rediscovered running after having children and gaining a lot of weight. My inner demons manifested again. Once again running became my protector from my nemesis the eating disorder. Through running, I was able to regain my life, overcome my eating disorder and I realized being a strong healthy weight actually helped my running. I would and could run for hours to escape life, my insecurities and lack of self-worth. Running made me feel relevant, worthy, successful and proud. I was able to accomplish the amazing feat of completing marathons at a good and respectable time.
However, inevitably, as my years went up so did my pace and injuries. All my demons resurfaced and reared their ugly heads. I did everything to regain my running abilities of the younger and more accomplished me. I would run through injuries never taking a day off.”
Linda shared with me that a Facebook “friend” had made a negative comment regarding a ‘slow’ result Linda had posted.
“The second time was obviously not an accident, but more a mutual unspoken ‘this is the last time’. We never really spoke about it as out of sight out of mind. We were able to compartmentalize it because we were so ashamed yet convinced that we weren’t hurting anyone but ourselves.”
In addition to her husband running with her bib, Linda posted these results to social media in an apparent attempt to receive the validation that she did not feel when she posted slower times.
By the time I first reached out to Linda, I knew all about the races she cheated at (at least the major ones). I had an article all ready to go detailing how I figured her real times, including the finish line photos that showed her crossing the mat 45 minutes after her chip did. All the evidence that was needed to prove she cheated. Linda immediately opened up about her personal challenges, but it was very difficult for her to initially admit to the cheating. Once she did, however, I could immediately tell that she felt a great sense of relief.
- There was ‘Fake Tina’ – who claimed the ‘Real Tina’s’ results as her own. She claimed that her last name was misspelled. She even posed for photos near the finish after grabbing a Mylar blanket. A few days after the race she finally produced the medal – which she likely purchased from E-Bay.
- There is Annie – She is notorious for entering marathons, and only running the last segment in order to collect her medal, and post her ‘accomplishment’ on Instagram. Initially she had taken age group awards, and BQ times (although she never ran Boston). She occasionally appears in results legitimately, but as recent as last fall she was posting on her Instagram account with medals that she did not earn.
I believe her, She did not have to open up to me in the way she did. I agreed to keep her completely anonymous before she agreed to be interviewed for this article, I am certain that they will not try to pull this off again.
I do look forward to seeing her run a race ‘timed’ and proudly post of her result, no matter how slow or how fast she runs.
“Linda’s” story was highlighted as part of a story on SUNDAY TODAY.
Marathon Investigator Derek Murphy Reveals How He Catches Cheaters
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