“Why I Cheated” A Race Cheater Caught – Why She Cheated And Her Attempt at Vindication

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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.

“Yes, that was the catalyst for the untimed races. I was devastated, I immediately removed the comment, then shortly thereafter the entire post. I vowed I’d never run a race again and then I had the epiphany to remove the bib tag or shoe chip going forward. That was the perfect solution. I would still be paying a race registration fee for a legit bib and not being a bandit yet running with the freedom of not being stalked as all times are posted for anyone to view and judge. I was never easy on myself and pushed every race but I wasn’t completely demoralized when I didn’t have a great race knowing I wouldn’t be ridiculed again.  The perfect scenario to still do what I love.”
I find this incredibly sad. She ran Boston one time only (I do believe she legitimately qualified), and she does not appear in the results. She ran it untimed. She felt shamed to the point that she will never officially be recognized as a Boston finisher.
Eventually running untimed was not enough. According to Linda, the practice of her husband running with her bib started innocently.  This would later escalate.
“My husband carrying my chip started out by a very innocent accident. We inadvertently got our bibs mixed up. I pulled off the chip on the bib I thought was mine (but actually his bib) and he ran with my bib with the chip fully intact. We didn’t realized the mistake until he looked up his results and couldn’t find his name but found mine.

“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.”
Often I would run untimed, but my husband would also occasionally run with my chip because he saw what it did to my self-esteem and motivation to get back to my old running self to truly earn the time/pace. I wanted to be worthy of the results he ran for me. 
 
It was always just the two of us. We were so embarrassed although we convinced ourselves that it was a victimless crime and not really cheating since we both paid registration fees for every race, I always started/finished every single race and never financially gained from our manipulation. “
 

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.

This is not the only time I have seen people exaggerating accomplishments with the only apparent motive to post the result on Facebook or Instagram to impress friends and followers.
  • 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.
The difference with Linda and these two is that Linda is adamant that she has completed every race she is credited with.
After our conversation, Linda has been working to ‘right the wrongs’. She has begun the process of contacting races to have the results removed where her husband carried her chip. Her Boston qualifying time at Philadelphia will be stricken. Any age group awards will be forwarded to the rightful owners. I am working with her to help her through this process.
I asked Linda to put into her words her feelings from the past few days…
Over the past several days I’ve been overwhelmed with a variety of emotions. Embarrassment, regret, extreme self-loathing, self-examination, guilt, sadness yet a sense of relief and hope. Although I felt most of these the entire time and not just because I got caught. My self worth is not contingent on race time. I have vowed to myself to be proud of my accomplishments on their own merit. I also hope that my poor judgement and lack of self worth will help other runners realize that their performance does not define them as a runner, but what does is their dedication, perseverance and integrity. 

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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14 COMMENTS

  1. Why do you need to post your time on Facebook? Put up a pic with your medal and let everyone know you just rocked a marathon. Feeling pressure to post a time you're proud of is silly. Most likely none or your friends will care either way.

    • Can’t seem to post my own comment, which pretty much agrees with this.
      Why feel sorry for this cheater? So she’s had “inner demons”. Whatever. So have we all. So running was cathartic? Good. Then all one has to do is put on some shoes, go outside, and run. You don’t have to enter competitions. You don’t have to post times online. And you sure as hell don’t have to lie about it. The sad thing about it is the supportive comments this low level con artist has gotten from other people. It’s a sign of the times, I guess. Gotta compete, gotta self-promote, gotta rationalize when caught.
      Sad, sick and contemptible.

  2. "Linda" and her husband sound like people i'd like to meet and run with… and very strongly cheer on. Yep, she did something I wouldn't approve of… and if we were to sit down and honestly talk, I'd have to confess to doing things *I* wasn't proud of either.

    The difference is she 'fessed up… and is working HARD at moving on.

    Kudos, "Linda"… you may not feel like it, but you just did your part to show *why* I respect runners so much. And thank you, Derek, for taking the time to do this… not just the "let's catch people" stuff… but the "let's work to correct the wrongs" stuff.

  3. Good for you, Linda! I'm sorry for that someone who was negative and created shame. I know how that feels. We live in a culture of "bigger better faster more" where we are judged by races, times, etc. Thank you for your open honesty.

  4. Great article, I glad to hear that Linda was a big enough person to admit wrong doing and work to make things right. We've all done things we are not proud of, it's what someone does to rectify there mistakes and move forward that counts. I hope that Linda is able to regain her confidence in her performances and continues to enjoy running!

  5. Hi *Linda*,

    Just want to share my thoughts:

    1. There are different types of runners; the 'podium' runners (those who run to win), PB chasers (those who intends to up their personal best records), amateurs, once-a-year's, and recreational. Personally, I would call myself a finisher. Might not achieve a new PB, but I ran the marathon and finished with a medal. That counts!
    2. There are also marathons without timings.
    3. I learn as both my age and commitments increases, I may not be able to run as fast as I can before. That's fine. The journey of training for a marathon, the experience of running one matters. In the end, I've gone as far as my legs can carry me.

    I hope you will find your own reason to run with a timer, and be proud of it. 🙂

  6. I so appreciated your compassion in not outing her. What a complex and devastating world this can be when those comments cut to the core. In my one marathon, I "ran" with a torn meniscus and a sprained ankle. I finished at just over 7 hours. Not officially listed and lots of ribbing for it. But I told people – you have no idea how hard it is to be on the course for 7 hours! Thanks for your grace with Linda.

  7. i ran a 4:52 my first marathon. it was my proudest race. My whole family was there for me at the finish line. It is pathetic to cheat at something like a race. It's not like she was a pro trying to feed her family and starving; desperate for a win to put food on her table. I pity people like that who have poverty ethics desperate for a like on fb or instagram- they are mercenary people who would probably slit their mama's throats for a nickel. Losers.

  8. Ultimately these folks are primarily cheating themselves. I think this was the right approach in this case and I feel sorry for Linda. There is great joy to be had in running and it sounds like she lost sight of that. And it has nothing to do with what others feel or how the runner compares to others. Hopefully she'll find a better way.

  9. I'll say it once, I'll say it each time: keep up the great work, Derek. Frankly, again, if the governing bodies and race directors don't want to police this great sport than the need for Derek's work is imperative. I feel bad for Linda and hope she does two things: continues to run and seeks out someone to chat to about her issues she's dealing with now and in the past.

  10. I don't think anyone should forget that had "Linda" not been approached about this cheating it would have continued. She robbed someone who worked their behind off to place in a race the thrill and pride of actually knowing they placed and kept and posted the trophy on social media claiming it as her own. And she would have continued with this behavior had she not been called out. I don't think she really did anything all that brave.

  11. Is there really race bullying to make people feel bad about their slow times? My God, people! Does social media put so much pressure on us that we need to doctor our times – by whatever means – to look good in front of others we know or don't know, or shouldn't know (if they make fun of slow times?)

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