Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Timing Issue Explained


Before I even had the opportunity to start reviewing The Cleveland Marathon results, I received an email regarding the third place female finisher.

My initial reaction was that there was a timing issue. No, it was not possible that she ran a 4:08 per minute mile between the 1/2 and 30k. But, I found it nearly as unlikely that she would have dropped down to an 8:54 per minute mile from 30k to the finish. Her race photos did not seem to indicate that she was struggling.

I emailed The Cleveland marathon specifically asking if there was a timing malfunction.

For what it’s worth, the runner also had posted her Garmin data, which seemingly confirmed that she ran the course in its entirety.

I also pointed out that many others showed this same pattern – impossibly fast split between the 1/2 and 30k followed by an extremely slow split. But overall paces were in line with their 1/2 marathon times.

the overall winner, for example, showed the same type of timing anomoly:


Since the initial email, I’ve received others. I appreciate the vigilance and I appreciate that so many runners are paying attention. I really do feel that the added attention to cheating has started to move the needle a bit. I believe runners are more concerned ans aware that if they cheat, that they will likely be caught.

This afternoon, the marathon confirmed that there was a timing mat issue.

Timing Mat Issue

After some initial back and forth, a race official explained:

“It was a timing mat issue. At that point in the course, the runners run down the road on one side and then come back on the other side of the road. The mat was placed on the wrong side of the road which is why all the runner’s splits at that point is so much faster.”

You do not need to email me if you see this pattern for Cleveland.  However, I will still be reviewing the results for large negative splits, etc.
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  1. I think you should be careful about displaying a runner’s information (name, age, town, etc) until you find out all of the facts. People may not read the entire article and incorrectly think that this person did something wrong.

    • I can’t be responsible if people aren’t going to read the article. I posted the name of a well known marathoner that WON the marathoner as an example of the timing malfunction. It is clear. Not sure what more facts are needed here.

  2. I think it is nice for once to see a genuine timing mat error and not someone cutting the course!

  3. Derek, I get that being a bandit is cheating and stealing and should not be done or condoned. However, before you write about blasting those that do it (and it is probably well deserved), you should also balance any articles about the high cost of running in racing and the lack of avenues for poorer and working class runner to participate in the sport without the means. Running used to be the poor person’s sport and it is increasingly becoming an upper middle class sport. I ran a club team years ago in another sport, and we had mechanisms where we would fund poorer athletes who couldn’t afford our participation fees. It seems like so many of the races today are for profit ventures or inefficient fundraising schemes geared to the wealthy. When races don’t have alternative means for participation for poor and working class runners in the community (i.e. volunteer in one race, get to compete in another for free; no T-shirt/medal option), that’s a big part of the bandit story as well.

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