I am republishing this article, I originally posted this on May 6, 2016.
The overall feedback I have received from the public regarding my work on the blog and the Boston reviews has been positive. (At some point I will try to clarify the review and filtering process – but runners that just had a bad day in Boston, or paced a friend, or just took their time, are not going to be singled out. They have nothing to worry about).
There has been debate on both ends regarding my blog posts. Again, most people are supportive. But there are some that feel like every time I post, I am shaming people that don’t deserve it. Whether I name them or not. There are others that have criticized me for not releasing the list of everyone that was identified as having cheated to run Boston in 2015.
I’ve thought a lot about this. I have made posts in the past that I probably wouldn’t make now given the attention this blog is now getting. I have not hidden from the debate – that would be easy to do – and probably better for my sanity.
I am very selective on what I post now. I can only post on a fraction of the stories that come to my attention. As the sole writer on this blog, I have to make that decision myself. I have to make sure what I post is accurate. If I decide to name someone on the blog, it is not to shame them for the sake of shaming them.
What is Shaming?
I found this article
which I feel is appropriate on the subject. It differentiates between shaming for the sake of shaming, and shaming to hold someone accountable. Or bad shaming vs. good shaming in the words of the author.
There are times when the level of shaming rises above what many feel appropriate.
There was an instance where a woman mentioned in the above article sent a tweet many deemed inappropriate to her 170 followers, someone saw it and reported on it and the internet went nuts and she was fired by the time her plane landed. Was it a smart thing to do on her part, No. But, in my opinion, that was an instance of shaming that went to an inappropriate level.
I got some criticism (rightfully so) for an article I posted (and removed about 24 hours later) on a runner that pretended to run Boston, and used another runner’s name and time. It was fascinating – but could have been told in a way that kept her identity private, or not told at all. I made a misttake. I was wrong for posting that article. I’ve learned from that and have accepted the criticism.
What about Rachel Dolezal
? Most would argue that the reporting on her was appropriate. She rose to a position of power, partially by misrepresenting herself. It’s not much different than a fitness coach that embellishes his credentials to gain clients.
When someone is paid by clients and has earned sponsorships based at least partly on their running ability, presenting evidence that some of their accomplishments are not legitimate is not shaming for the sake of shaming, it is holding them accountable.
Their clients deserve to know the facts. They deserve the truth. They may chose to ignore this information, but they deserve the opportunity to make that decision. If you hire a financial planner, or a C.P.A, or go to the doctor, you would want to know if there is evidence that their credentials are less than they claim. The same holds true if you spend your money to hire a trainer/running coach. You may not care whether they qualified for Boston or not, but you may care that this person that you trusted and admired may have been less than honest.
There are those that want me to release the names of all the runners that have been identified from Boston ’15. In my opinion, most of those cases would fall under the ‘Bad shaming’. I am responsible for everything I post. It would not feel right to me if the firefighter mentioned in the Runner’s World article lost his job over his decision to cut the course to qualify for Boston. The proper consequence, in my opinion, would be disqualification from both the qualifier and Boston.
I am reporting all of the runners to the appropriate races.
Who made me the marathon police?
I’ve been posting on the blog since last August, and nearly no one noticed. I did not seek out this level of attention.
Late last summer, I had the idea to investigate a sample of Boston runners and worked with others to determine how significant the cheating was. I did want to bring attention to that issue, and not necessarily to myself. At that point I ran the blog anonymously.
Late last year I was contacted by Runner’s World after the reporter had talked to someone else in the FB group I was a part of. I agreed to work with them and provide them the results of our work for a future article. I thought this would be the best way to raise awareness and help deter cheating.
A week before that article was to be published, I wrote the Gia Alvarez post
. I didn’t realize the nerve that would strike. I didn’t realize her level of popularity. But, suddenly my blog was getting attention, and the Runner’s World article
was not out yet. Once that article came out the attention grew even more. I was getting requests for interviews, podcasts, radio, etc. There were a number of follow up articles – in a couple of cases I spoke to reporters, some wrote the articles just based on what was already reported on.
As a result of all of this, I began receiving more emails regarding runners to review, offers to help, etc. Suddenly I found myself in the role of an advocate for these runners that mostly wanted to remain anonymous. All while working a full time job that has nothing to due with marathons or running.
With the Added Attention Comes Added Responsibility
After I posted and removed the ‘Fake Runner’ article, I made the decision to limit the types of articles I would write. I am not going to identify random runners that bid swap or course cut a single time. But, if the runner puts themselves out in public touting their achievements, claim to be above the rules, (Patriot’s Runner Guy
) or is making money from running, and cheats, I may decide to name them in an article.
On the flip side, I too will be held accountable. If I ever were to reach an incorrect conclusion, or call someone a cheater when they did not cheat, or without the evidence to prove it, I will have to answer to that. That is why I am extremely selective in the articles I post. If I write a post, I have done extensive research to validate any data I post or conclusion I reach.
A runner in another country built a very popular running blog. He also had sponsors. He did paid reviews for products. All of this this covered his expenses to travel to some of the world’s largest marathons. He cheated in at least 2 marathons. It was appropriate to hold him accountable. He admitted his cheating, and took down his blog. I did not ask him to take down his blog, but he felt obligated to do so. I took down the article I wrote about him per his request. Any additional consequences would have been excessive in my opinion.
I welcome your feedback. I hope that posting this helps clarify my point of view.