Women’s Running Magazine Defends Cheaters and Then Calls Out A Cheater

I only recently became aware of this article which was written during the height of the Mike Rossi controversy.  It was written by Jessica Sebor. Jessica is VP of Women’s Running at Competitor Group.
I recommend reading the entire article.

On one point, we agree. Those that post personal attacks to runners that are called out are despicable.However, this is not just a problem in the running community. You see this whenever an article is written about someone. Spend some time reading comment sections of any article and you will find trolls. That stinks.

In her article, Jessica writes

Cheating is bad, But cheater shaming is worse.  The running media should avoid creating a fervor that leads to personal attacks – not feed into it.”

Women’s Running – In Defense of The Running Cheaters
In the space of a few inches, Women’s Running condemns the media for calling out cheaters, and then calls out a cheater. I find this extremely hypocritical.
Run, Selfie, RepeatWomen’s Running is the same publication that reported on Kelly Roberts of “Run, Selfie, Repeat” Fame.
via Instagram “I love sweaty men”
Kelly gained notoriety in March of 2014 when she ran the NYC Half Marathon and came up with the idea of Run Selfie, Repeat. During this race, she took selfies with guys in the background, posting comments like “yummy” “dad action” and “I love sweaty men” to accompany the photos on Instagram. She wasn’t actually registered for the race. She was wearing a friend’s bib. These posts featured the hashtag #hottguysofnychalf

Women’s Running posted many of these photos in an article about Kelly.Kelly eventually built “Run, Selfie, Repeat” into a brand.  Kelly is now a contributor for Women’s Running.  She built a website, runselfierepeat.com where she blogs, and posts her frequent podcasts.

I am confident in saying that if a male runner took selfies that included pictures of unknowing females, and posted them on their Instagram along with similar comments, that the reaction from Women’s Running would have been entirely different.

I will acknowledge her recent article Shame on You Running Community. This article was in the works well before she posted that article. This is not in response to her opinions in that article.I actually agree with most of what she wrote. I am also opposed to the personal attacks, as any reasonable runner would be.

I do, however  disagree with calling out the entire running community. The people that act in this manner are relatively small in number, and do not represent the running community as a whole.

In Conclusion

This article contains my opinions. I know I am not alone. I know some will disagree with me.

On one hand. with the Jane Seo story going viral, some potential cheaters will think twice before cutting a course. That is a good thing. It made more people aware and willing to report cheating. My inbox is now flooded with requests to review results.

On the other hand, when millions of people become aware of a story, there will be some hate. I received some of that hate as well – it goes with the territory. I was probably better prepared to receive criticism than Jane was.

Let’s not blame the running community as a whole. Most of the comments that I saw were critical of Jane, but not hateful. If I felt any comment crossed the line on my blog, I would delete it.

The fact that there will be internet ‘trolls’ whenever someone is called out should not be used as a Get Out of Jail Free card. There should still be accountability for our decisions.


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  1. So Women's Running has a writer on staff who used another person's bib in a race? Something is is against almost all races that I know of!! Forgetting her sexist blog. Kelly Roberts is nothing but an attention whore who is trying to promote her acting career!

  2. As we discussed on Salty Running and in SaltyChat last night on twitter, cheating, investigating, and reporting on cheating is a very complex issue. Simply investigating and reporting is not shaming someone for the purpose of punishing them. When someone cheats, they are making a mistake, sure. And everyone should have the opportunity to learn and grow from these experiences. But, one can only learn and grow when they accept the fallout and consequences of those decisions. Cheating is going to upset a lot of people who will say they are upset. That's not intentionally shaming someone or punishing them and that's not preventing them from using the experience to better themselves and move on. And also in the case of people who are bragging about their running exploits on social media and seem to be courting celebrity, when they cheat, there will be much more public scrutiny than if they were not using their running to further those goals. I get uncomfortable with a dogpile on someone who made a mistake, but reporting on it and discussing it is not that.

  3. Hi Derek — I'm quickly a fan of your blog and generally applaud what you're doing, especially since I can potentially benefit from fewer numbers of boston qualifying cheaters due to your excellent work. Though I'm wary of some unintended consequences here. The internet is a powerful thing and somewhat difficult to grasp. This blog has some potential power in how it deals consequences to cheating runners, and I feel like this power is still not well understood because people and anonymous internet mobs are unpredictable.

    I'd like to pose some hypotheticals on where you would draw the line on exposing a cheating runner, with the caveat that I really don't necessarily have a strong opinion on this matter.

    Let's say you expose a cheating runner, for example a Jane, who finally apologizes after all avenues of concealing the cheat have been exhausted. What circumstances (from benign to most consequential), if any, would cause you to reconsider how you post about the cheating runner? Or, perhaps in other words, what do you think is the maximum reasonable consequence for cheating in a running race?

    1. Cheating runner gets caught, race results invalidated, that's the end of it.
    2. The above, and internet mob catches attention of cheating runner, cheating runner gets humiliated.
    3. All of the above, and cheating runner is unable to reasonably participate in a particualr running event or Boston.
    4. All of the above, and cheating runner experiences persistent internet bullying from internet mob possibly leading to a cycle of depression.
    5. All of the above, and cheating runner loses income on running-related promotions
    6. All of the above, and due to the negative publicity, cheating runner completely stops participating in any running events, or completely drops the hobby.
    7. All of the above, and employer finds out, cheating runner loses job and income on non-running job
    8. All of the above, cheating runner's future income stream is permanently impaired with his/her name out in the internet.
    9. All of the above, permanently impacting the cheating runner's livelihood.
    10. All of the above, and cheating runner commits suicide due to internet bullying.

    All of this in mind that once something goes out on the internet, it's permanently there. You can't control what readers of your blog do. Also you can't control how a cheating runner reacts to bad publicity and internet bullying.

    If the worst case scenario ever happened, would you reconsider your methods? It's true that all this information is public anyway, but there's a reason why Reddit imposed a policy on posting peoples' information (they learned in a hard way).


  4. That's pretty commonplace in the NYC running community, there's tons of bib swapping going on, and people don't think of it as a bad thing. *to be clear, this drives me freaking crazy and I don't do it or condone it. I think it's a function of NYRR races selling out months in advance, even the weekly 5 milers around Central Park. I wish there was a better way to police the problem. I'd be interested to know if anyone has a VIABLE idea of how to do that.

    Kelly Roberts' blog may be annoying (have you read it? I'm willing to bet not), but I don't know if it really qualifies as sexist. Interesting that you follow that statement by referring to her with the word 'whore.' Ahem.

  5. I feel like Jane is at 5 right now, potentially through 9 since her name is all over google now. Whatever number she lands at is completely uncontrollable and probably unpredictable.

    While I don't necessarily have a strong opinion here, I feel like maybe the consequences on 7-8 are probably a bit too extreme for cheating on a running race. Around 8 or 9 is close to what the consequences would be for a sex offender, and cheating on a running race is a far cry from a sex offender status crime.

    That said, I'd have to admit that having names completely out in the open on this blog is partially what draws me to this blog. Maybe it's partially due to insecurity, when I see people being caught for doing bad things it makes me feel better about myself? I don't know.

  6. Another snowflake! I have read her stupid blog. The hot guys posts are sexist. Her other posts are stupid attention grabbing BS. Attention whore is a common phrase in social media. Stop being a snowflake!

    As for the bib, just because it is commonplace doesn't mean it is right! I'm sure it is again the NYRR rules! If a magazine is going to campaign against cheating they shouldn't have a cheater as a writer!!

  7. I've become more conservative as the blog has grown. I will likely get further away from reporting on individual cases unless it is incredibly egregious. I don't think posting photos of runners, times, splits as part of a bigger story has ever caused anyone beyond a 2. And I don't think it would.

    But in particularly egregious instances, I will always report on them. Someone that is public, sponsored, cheating, getting an award, covering it up, lying after the fact would always be something I post about. I will also ALWAYS give that person the opportunity to completely come clean before posting. The Jane article still would have been written, the tone probably would have changed, and it still may not have made a difference. I cannot control or predict what the mainstream will run with.

  8. Thank you Derek. Even if you don't post some cases on the blog, you will still report them to the race they cheated on and BAA right?

    I'd have to admit I have a fascination with your methodologies. I'm a software engineer and a runner, with fascination on using calculators and tools to predict and model performance. It's fascinating to think about heuristics and automate statistical anomalies on running performance.

  9. Had the Race Director and Time Keeper been doing their respective jobs post-race, you wouldn't have to do what you do Derek. Frankly, if a runner knows that a Derek-like Time Keeper is in-charge of the race, they wouldn't even think twice about cheating.

    I'm really annoyed with Race Directors and Time Keepers who think their job is finished when the race ends and the race results have been published online. They make no effort to scrub up the race results list once they put up the race results online. I've had, on numerous occasions, communicated with Race Directors pointing out the obvious DNFs in the race results: no response.

  10. I'm with r. We've been discussing this with my runner/geek friends the other day. These anomaly detection algorithms should be part of every semi-serious race's timing software. Not trying to put Derek out of his hobby here:) but imagine how much faster can they weed out the cheaters that way!

  11. NF, i do use a lot of variables to predict times. I utilize this methodology for Boston qualifiers now. It's been a bit oversimplified in the write ups. But for 2017 I'm using quite a view variables to predict the times. I'm sure someone will come along and improve at some point. There was a data scientist who uses his methods to prioritize. Our prioritized lists for Boston were very similar.

  12. Exposing cheaters to public scrutiny is desirable as it served to discourage future cheating conduct of the sort by them.

    Publication of their names is important. Race results are published for the public to see and there should not be "privacy" extended to these runners who cheat. To do so would encourage others to cheat, as "no one would ever know about it" due to squeamishness over publication.

    I want to see an end to the days of people cheating to get into Boston. No more "fat old women" covering just three miles of the Disney Marathon course (missing all the timing mats and making a left turn to the finish soon after the start) or running bloggers using bib mules to get their qualifier times. Bringing their names into the open helps increase awareness of the problem and hopefully discourages future runners from considering doing so.

  13. I don't understand why race organizers can't give deferrals or just allow people to sell their bib and then add $20 fee to make the change. Maybe cap the bib changes to 5%.

    The Yellowstone National Park Half allows runners to sell their bibs, for a fee. I don't know of any races that allow for deferrals! Some races do sell insurance, for $10 or so, you can get a refund.

  14. You have a point there. It's like having a return policy.

    I signed up for a half-marathon then mid-training, I had a knee injury so I couldn't go. When I checked the comments section of the event, there were a number of runners who were asking the organizer for extra slots.

    And it's not hard to do.

  15. I've seen several people comment on the bib-swapping above, so I'll add my two cents:

    As Cinnamon above pointed out, part of the problem with NYRR right now is the fact that demand for the major races (and even some of the minor races) is so high, that you have to register well in advance. A lot of things can happen between registration day and race day, so you could potentially lose a lot of participants in a race if no one swapped bibs.

    However, I think the high demand is exactly why NYRR has NOT instituted a policy where bib-swapping policy would be permitted. The obvious argument is that with the high demand, they have no incentive to do so. The less obvious argument would be that bib-swapping (at least in some forms) could create a secondary market for race entries, and thus invite bib scalpers into the mix. Whatever policy NYRR would need to apply in order to prevent a secondary market from forming, they probably consider a hassle.

  16. Let's say a NYRR race is capped at 5,000 and say 10% of that, 500, people can't make the race for whatever reason and there is no bib swapping. So, the 4,500 runners would benefit by having less people on the course! NYRR loses nothing because the 500 people who didn't make the race already paid and can't get a refund or deferral. I say that's a win/win for everybody-runners in the race have more room and refueling stations won't be as crowded!!

    Now say the NYRR allows for the selling of bibs or deferrals for a $20 fee. They would make $10,000 more, using this example of 500 people! Say 100 of those 500 people ask for deferrals and the race cost $100. That's another $10,000 the race makes by selling the 100 spots that were deferred!
    While some people may think bib swapping is harmless, if it is against the rules, then people like Kelly should be banned from all future races hosted by that group!!!

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