I’ve seen how dangerous it can be when someone wears a bib that isn’t theirs and needs medical attention mid-race. It puts the race organizers and volunteers, the medical professionals and the runner in a dangerous position. Would I ever wear someone else’s bib for a race that I really wanted to run now? Hell no. Do I regret doing it back in 2013? Not a single bit.
Because that day, regardless of the fact that I never toed the line with intentions of starting a blog or becoming a voice in the body positivity movement, it was the moment that put me on a path towards finding my voice. It’s because I went viral that I was encouraged to start my blog Run, Selfie, Repeat, and in time discovered why it’s so important for to share my shame, share my story and learn how to be vulnerable for the first time in my life.
Women’s Running Magazine
“How Running Taught Me The Importance of Vulnerability”
I’ve rehashed the story a couple of times on here. I’ve reached out to Kelly on multiple occasions. But in a quick couple sentences for anyone that is unaware:
Kelly went viral after posting selfies of herself “with hot guys” during a half marathon. She wasn’t registered for the half marathon. She bought someone’s bib off of Craigslist. That attention let to her blog, Instagram, podcast and sponsorships. She has been vocal against shaming and has spoken for body positivity. She has also written against the public outing of race cheaters.
I mentioned Kelly in prior articles pointing out what I perceive to be hypocritical. Posting pictures with crude cations of guys, while being so vocal against shaming. Obviously, I also was against the banditing of the race that led to her popularity.
Kelly has gone from running with someone else’s bib to simply jumping on courses during her training runs.
In going through Kelly’s social media while investigating the story regarding her Oiselle sponsorship, a couple of pictures were discovered of her running in 2 half marathons in Northern California.
I confirmed that Kelly was not registered for either event, and did not have permission to enter the course for either event. One race said that they have since contacted Kelly regarding her ‘illegal participation’.
What makes this worse, in my opinion, is that a comped entry was requested on Kelly’s behalf for one of the races. This race offered Kelly the role of an ambassador – in which she could have earned a comped entry by promoting the race and by meeting a requirement by having a minimum amount of runners sign up under her unique promo code. Kelly declined this offer – and then went on to run a portion of this race without a bib.
Would I ever wear someone else’s bib for a race that I really wanted to run now? Hell no.
She did not run with someone else’s bib. She ran with no bib at all. I would be interested to hear how she justifies this. Did she learn this lesson between banditing a race in February and March when that article was published? Running with no bib at all vs. someone else’s bib does nothing to lessen the impact on medical professionals, race organizers, and volunteers.
In her Instagram posts she even mentions that her friend – who was registered for the race slowed down to stay with Kelly. So, Kelly cannot say that she was there to pace her friend. It was really the other way around.
Maybe she just hopped on the course for photo ops? No. Her Strava shows the details of the run . The handy Flyby feature shows where she hopped on and off the courses.
She ran approximately 11 miles of the course for this race: Strava FlyBy – January 15th
For this race, she ran the course from the opposite direction, until she caught up to the field, and then she turned around and ran along with the field for approximately 5 miles during the race. Strava FlyBy February 5th
The Strava data once again proved useful in verifying information. Ironically, Kelly is sponsored by Strava. Her promotion relating to an appearence at Boston on a panel hosted by Strava was the source of controversy as well and is addressed in the next section of the article. The next section of the story shifts gears. It focuses on her relationship with Oiselle. The apparent lack of transparency regarding this relationships, and Oiselle’s decision to stand stand with Kelly over one paying member that was vocal in questioning Kelly’s role and status within Oiselle. I know this may not be of interest to all of my readers. No need need to spend time on the next section if this doesn’t interest you.
In the article I did about the ‘Shaming Defense’ I briefly referenced Kelly’s role at Oiselle. It was while researching the Oiselle situation that I came across the recent cases of banditing. The one thing that ties this together is what, in my opinion, is a disregard for rules. FTC has clear guidelines on disclosing partnerships. When questioned on this, Kelly provided rationale that conflicts with the FTC requirements. The other part of the story puts a spotlight on what I feel is a valid criticism of Oiselle’s loyalties.
I referenced Aysha Mirza being ousted from The Oiselle Volee team. An Oiselle Volee is a paying member of the team. Part of their fees go towards supporting Oiselle’s sponsored athletes. Aysha and others had internally been questioning Kelly’s official standing within Oiselle. The Oiselle athletes were told not to question Kelly’s role. If they didn’t like Kelly being on the team, they could leave. Aysha Mirza recently appeared on Life and Whatever Else’s web show and explained the situation. (The discussion on this begins around the 20 minute point).
In this interview Aysha explains why some members felt it was important to clarify and properly define Kelly’s relationship with Oiselle. She also discusses her intolerance towards all forms of cheating.
Aysha covers all of these topics in her most recent blog post on Aysha Runs.
The members wanted to know if their fees were going to pay Kelly as opposed to the true elites.
I find it is puzzling that Oiselle will not publicly state the full extent of their relationship with Kelly. Kelly is constantly promoting for Oiselle, the other ‘muses’ are not nearly as active. If she is being compensated – as Kelly has stated multiple times, it is an FTC requirement to disclose that you are sponsored every time you promote a product or a brand. It is not enough to reference your sponsors on a webpage or a twitter or Instagram profile. Every post promoting the brand needs to include a disclosure that you are sponsored by that brand.
For anyone that is interested, here are a couple FTC articles regarding disclosure requirements. Kelly’s statements on what she is required to disclose seem to conflict with what the FTC requires. If the relationship with Oiselle makes it possible for Kelly to “have a roof over her head, insurance and a little stability”, it is clear that she is being compensated.
FTC Staff Reminds Influencers and Brands to Clearly Disclose Relationship
Influencers, are your #materialconnection #disclosures #clearandconspicuous?
When Aysha questioned Kelly’s role, and pointed out when Kelly was incorrectly designated as an Elite, she was removed as a paying member of Oiselle’s Volee team. The same day as this tweet, Oiselle removed Aysha as a Volee member.
I asked Aysha to comment on the situation.
“I stand by everything I have said on social media because it is the truth. Kelly Roberts is not an elite athlete. I can admit if I’ve made a mistake or had misinformation, but a 1:42 half marathon on the roads for a non-Paralympic woman under 30 years of age can universally be agreed not to be at elite levels of racing. Oiselle did not comment on the incorrect representation on the Strava panel at Boston, nor did either party correct it or acknowledge the misinformation. But my membership was rescinded within the same day.
At this point, it’s disheartening that the value Oiselle placed in honesty, integrity, truth and transparency from the running community is no longer enacted upon. All these years with the CEO publicly calling out Nike, IAAF, IOC, USOC, USATF, amongst others for ethical issues is not at the forefront of what they believe as a company any longer, as evidenced by their actions in supporting an admitted, unremorseful cheater in the same sport that they sponsor elite athletes.
The reason I personally joined Oiselle was because of what they unapologetically stood for – inclusivity and justice for the love of the sport for everyone, no matter their race, pace, size, shape, or fitness level. I also joined because a part of my membership fee went to the elites – to help others pursue their dreams of racing at international levels. Supporting an admitted cheater without confirming her actual role as a paid representative (only confirmed via Kelly’s own words in a later interview: “Oiselle is a partner of mine, so they pay my bills”) while concurrently advocating to #SpeakOut has spoken volumes of irony to many.
Their actions speak louder than words and they are no longer their elite racing community’s advocate, by adding a non-elite member whose selfies are celebrated in lieu of the elite team members winning races across the country. At the end of the day, you cannot advocate for honest racing when you openly support and elevate a woman with no respect for honest racing in multiple situations. All I ask is that you stand by what you say you believe in. Sadly, if you are but a small piece of the puzzle and speak out for the truth to be stated, Oiselle then becomes the bully they’ve been publicly denouncing.”
Aysha reiterates this sentiment in her most recent blog post on Aysha Runs.
I want to make it clear that I think Kelly’s overall message of positivity is a good one. However I don’t think that should make her immune to genuine criticism.
If Kelly wants to be truly open with her followers she will address these topics. When someone that has the perceived influence of Kelly does things like bandit races, it sets a bad example. I could almost give a one time pass to someone that didn’t consider the issues of buying a bib and banditing a race. Kelly fully understands the potential issues. As an ‘influencer’ it is irresponsible to continue that behavior.
As I’ve communicated to Kelly via email, I am more than willing to have an open discussion with her regarding these topics.
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How self-absorbed does someone have to be to feel they are entitled to run a race they did not pay for? Can anyone explain this mindset to me? She has an incredible message (believe in yourself and be empowered) but she has lowered herself to her own body shaming and shaming those who are “skinny” and promotes that skinny is bad and we all must have poor body images of our self to be less than a size 10. Put your head on Kelly and listen to yourself. You don’t NEED to drop the F-Bomb to get your point across. You have lowered to the ranks of thinking you are above the rules and let your following get to your head. You are not above the rules, Kelly. The mighty will fall – keep yourself in check.
100%. Stumbling upon Kelly’s posts, I feel bad for being a fit runner. She may’ve had something to say when she first started shouting out loud, but now it’s all the same over and over again, desperate desire to be in a spotlight, getting attention, be visible and loved by general public.
And shame on you Kelly for banditing and buying bibs. That’s not what true athletes do.
Lila, or maybe it’s an unwavering desire to help others be comfortable in their own skin. That’s great that you’ve followed her journey and felt that she had “something to say”. Since November 2015 to now, her Instagram following has grown from 25k to 46k. Not everyone has heard her message, so it might be “all the same over and over again” to you but not to everyone else.
And…she is still at it- with Nike backing her now! Sheesh…
Charlene, how does this make Kelly self-absorbed? Kelly was new to racing when she ran the NYC Half; that does not excuse her from the reality that banditing is wrong. I’m sure by now she has a clear understanding of what banditing entails. It’s not like she went into the race thinking, “Ha, I’m getting over on these race directors and their race fees.” Why does she have the following that she does? Because she’s willing to open up about HER body insecurities to help others. She is brave enough to get over body shaming, ideas of ideal body shapes, and her own personal vulnerabilities to help others. Her following did not happen by accident. It’s funny that you say “the mighty” because Kelly does not represent herself as someone on a high horse. If anything, she shows us what being a real person is.
Good luck, that chick seems to think she is at the upper echelon of running these days. She will just start bashing marathoninvestigation.com as #OMGBullying and everything wrong with running since before she so bravely came onto the scene. When I first read about her from her illegal run where she sexually harassed men, I have had a strong dislike for her. I had NO idea she was this huge running “star” now, mostly because I avoid running blogs, Oiselle trash, and the joke that is women’s’ running magazine. So color me #shocked to read articles like this, that this person is now my advocate, as a “woman runner”. Disgusting.
What Anya said 100%. I was really disappointed to see that Oiselle cut a Volee member for asking questions about Kelly Roberts (and a shame that their paying team members are contributing to her livelihood) . I know their brand favors edgy, strong, women and I love that; however, I’m not sure how this one made the cut.
Anya, can you show us where Kelly bashes on marathoninvestigation.com? Just as Derek Murphy works to be objective in presenting his findings, it is important that we all are too in moving towards a productive conversation. And while you’re at that, where do you get the idea that Kelly thinks she’s in the “upper echelon of running”?
I agree 100% with you and Aysha. Kelly should not be immune to genuine criticism. If she wants to be a positive influence on women and girls of all shapes, sizes and colors, she needs to have integrity, which she is definitely lacking.
And the sad part is Oiselle and any of her other sponsors will continue to stand by her no matter what. Why? Because she has legions of fans who will buy whatever it is she’s wearing or repping. Money always speaks louder than true talent.
^^ all about the money at the end of the day…
Geoff and Alexandra, Kelly had legions of fans before Oiselle, before there was any brand association, let’s make that clear. When I started following her on Instagram in November 2015, she already had twenty-five thousand followers. The number of people who follow her there, on Facebook or any other channel…that did not happen by accident. We follow her because she is willing to present her REAL self (and it seems like some of us have trouble doing that, as evidenced by people not being able to even indicating their names when posting these comments).
She’s apologised: http://www.runselfierepeat.com/blog/i-made-a-mistake
Oh, please! My teenagers apologize better than that.
I agree that running only a portion of a race isn’t as bad as buying a bib or banditing the whole thing, but this much should be clear to her and anybody who has ever run a road race: if you didn’t register and pay, just stay off the course!
Perhaps her sponsors should have helped her write a better apology.
She didn’t apologize, she lied. That friend that she claims that she paced, she’s way faster. She’s trying to save face so that she doesn’t get cut by Oiselle or any of her sponsors.
So who or what is Oiselle??
Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. Google tells me they make “Running and Athletic Apparel for Women”
I think she was saying she has done this twice, the first time she was pacing someone in SF (photo of her laying on the ground) and the time in SD (second race photo) was another time she bandited.
Sally Bergesen on twitter just called Kelly a “pro athlete”. I’m slightly confused how she is considered a “pro athlete”. Is it because she quit her job to focus full time on running her blog? Also, I think she should be held to a higher standard if she wants to be the face of body positive running, aka time to follow all the rules and not bandit races. I don’t believe she has purchased any bibs illegally since her rise to fame.
I will admit, I think some of what Kelly is doing is positive and I followed both her BQ attempts. And I hadn’t thought of what she did as reverse sexism but I can see how it is. If a male runner did what she did he would be lambasted.
I also think selfies during a race are a huge problem, annoying and can be a safety issue. I’ve nearly run into or been run into several times in recent races due to people taking selfies.
Regardless of her disgusting character, she is correctly described as a pro athlete if she is being paid to market goods through athletic activities. She is obviously not an elite athlete or upstanding athlete by any means, though.
Everyone should contact her sponsors.
I never heard of Kelly Roberts before this post. Anyway, another person desperately screaming for fame with NO qualifications: Just don’t buy anything she’s selling: Frankly, if YOU would pay for merchandise or visit her site for any real tangible inspiration, you’re being duped big time. If you want to continue doing so, why not sign up for RACEPASS, too.
well, just boycot the companies that underwrite her: She has low morals and obviously hates the running community, too.
While I don’t agree with everything she has side, the article mentions doing something illegal, what exactly was that? I suppose if she took aid from them, maybe stealing?
I would certainly not think running at the same time as marathoners would be, unless it’s on a private land.
Running a race you didn’t pay for is stealing. Intentionally hopping into a race where the participants have paid dues that help pay for security, open streets, and insurance for injuries is stealing.
The illegal thing she is doing is promoting products without notifying people that she is sponsored by that product. Every post promoting a product must state that they are being supported by the company that the product is made by. That is FTC rules.
She didn’t pace her friend. If you watch her BQ vlog she jumps on the course for training and makes a big stink about how her friend is fast and she is slow from taking time off after her Chicago attempt, and eventually her friend pulls away from her.
What’s more concerning is that a middling hobby blogger gets sponsorship, while some pro runners have to struggle to pay rent. I was more pissed when her “hot guys” article came out because she wasted a NYC Half Marathon spot to pose for selfies. When did mediocrity become something we celebrate. I understand she’s relatable to the hordes of medal chasers, but come on, we don’t laude the dad bod weekend warrior who goes out and plays football with his buddies. How about you sign up for a race, pay for it, train for it, and when it’s all done keep it to yourself.
I just read her apology and it’s pretty disingenuous. You can’t say “it appears I made a mistake” to start – that’s hardly taking ownership. Also, there’s no way that she was unaware of how running only “part” of the race isn’t banditing – using resources is using resources. I really hope this continues to be a learning experience – she has definitely been a positive person for many people, but that doesn’t excuse her from fair criticism.
She lost me when she said in her “apology” that she didn’t know that jumping into a race unregistered was banditing. And she calls herself a professional? Oiselle needs to cut all ties with this person NOW.
Just sick and tired of all the self-entitled jerks.
Kelly’s fame was founded on notoriety and is built on social media followings. She may not be an elite runner, but she is a very fast middle-of-the-pack runner. Like her or not, she is also pretty witty and relatable. In that sense, she may be more motivational and inspirational to many people who can never hope to be an elite. It’s not fair, but I also understand why a company like Oiselle finds her more valuable than an elite runner who is not a household name or even a fee paying team member. The problem is that Oiselle seems to be trying to have the proverbial cake and eat it too — by shrouding its relationship with Kelly in mystery, Oiselle is hoping not to upset or turn off serious/elite runners.
Kelly appears to be emblematic of the problem with the social media or influencer economy. Due to the need to maintain and grow their followings, “influencers” like Kelly probably feel pressured or even entitled to skirt the rules to remain edgy and relevant. This is unfortunate and disappointing. If she keeps this up, it won’t be long before she teeters over the line to off-putting.
well said. She’s already teetered WELL OVER that line.
Watch out for the “Double Letter Cheater Identification Protocol,” Kelly
Well, further proof she’s not a pro athlete – a pro, representing a company that sponsors them, with a reputation on the line for both athlete and sponsor, would know all the rules and not break them. Saying you didn’t know there were rules, so you didn’t mean to break them, but you’re really sorry you did, is a huge blemish on both Kelly’s reputation and Oiselle’s. It’s really shockingly unprofessional.
It seems that whenever someone apologizes online, it is never good enough for the many who sit atop high horses. She apologized, she claimed to have reached out to race directors and paid for the races she banditted. She acknowledged what she did was wrong. One can argue all day whether or not she had prior knowledge that what she was doing was illegal/uncool. What else do some of you want from her? Her apology was good enough and should be accepted. She need not fall on a samorai’s sword for you.
Also whining about how she is being treated like a sponsored athlete when she isn’t remotely close in terms of talent is pointless. What is apparent is that she does a good job of self-promotion, is likely an extrovert (unlike most runners) and is relatable to many women. “Serious” runners often get jealous of these qualities; e.g. mad at Dean Karnazes. I’m sure she isn’t getting rich off of it…
“When did mediocrity become something we celebrate?”
March, 2007 – Kim Kardashian’s Sex Tape is released
Wow. Jealous much?
Hello runners, this is Kelly’s Aunt Mary Ellen. I’d like to point out a few items for your consideration:
1. It is my impression that marathons are typically run upon public streets, with that in mind, since when does a marathon claim eminent domaine?
2. To my knowledge, Kelly hasn’t claimed to be an elite runner, so what’s the big deal? Is she stealing something from you people?
3. It has come to my attention the wonderful acknowledgement from Women’s Running magazine has caused the trolls and haters to online bully a young woman who is just working to be herself and hopefully help others along the way, if this concept is unattractive to you don’t read her blog.
4. Due to Kelly’s online prominence this blog is using her to attract clicks.
Running could/should be a sport for anyone what’s up with this pecking order? Don’t you people have anything else to do? If you have that time on your hands why not go out and do something nice for someone instead of sitting on your computers and trashing someone just because you aren’t on the cover of a magazine? I’ve been informed this has extended to her family members, those engaging in this behavior should be ashamed of themselves.
Remember, life is short and you meet the same people on the way down as you did on the way up. Its prudent to keep a little reality in mind when temped to engage in group cyberbullying.
Try to be who you think you are, and the world would be a much nicer place to live in.
Mary Ellen, I appreciate you wanting to defend your niece.
Kelly has already acknowledged that what she did was wrong. Her family justifying it as not a big deal is not going to get very far. Roads are closed off for races. Race organizers pay for the right to hold their races. Unregistered runners are not typically allowed on course. Runner’s World also felt it was worthy to bring up the subject of running a race that wasn’t paid for. It’s not just my site bringing up a non issue.
Bullying – I agree, anyone that engaged in that behavior is despicable. My articles were not bullying. I reported what happened. I can’t control the reactions. I do moderate to the best of my ability when comments are made on my site or social media. I could pull hateful comments that I’ve received at different points as well – including one you made to me “You must live in your car”. When you have the following that Kelly has, and that my site has, there are going to be people that cross the line. It sucks. But that’s the reality.
I posted one article on her specifically this week. The other articles were mostly to post the responses of Oiselle and Kelly. I didn’t not offer much commentary regarding Kelly’s apology and I posted it in its entirety. The reason this story continued much past Monday was Oiselle’s initial response – their employee’s support of banditing and their definition of elite. After Monday most of the focus was on Oiselle.
I am not using her popularity for clicks. My site gets plenty of traffic without writing about Kelly. I write about all things related to running that relate to integrity and honesty in the sport.
Really? That’s the best you can say?
#1 A reader on your site said enough of your posts about Kelly, apparently you’ve done 4 articles, just quoting that post.
#2 Although I can respect your professional purity, if in fact you’re in a purity situation, Kelly has never positioned herself
as an Elite runner or a professional runner so what’s the beef?
I can understand if this is a steal from another award or fame in a marathon, like the Atlantic Reported that sandbagged a placing,
but the fuss you’ve directed towards Kelly and her enthusiasm towards running is unjustified which has causing unbalanced haters,
which I hold you responsible for. Too bad for you!!
I’d like to focus on the hate, your unwarranted critical posts have caused a s-storm of hate towards Kelly, and
although you appear to be oblivious towards your instigation I’m sure you are reveling in this.
Karma is a B- dude, enjoy living in your car.
The issue regarding elite/professional was an issue that people took with Oiselle, not aKelly. Oiselle is responsible for what they post.
And, you are the one resorting to the name calling – the exact behavior Kelly advocates against. I’m sorry, but I cannot be held responsible for everyone’s reaction to my posts.
Congrats on your restraint. You are much nicer than I could have been. Mary seems to want to blame everyone but her niece.
Can we all chill out? Yeah, she is not above criticism, but that doesnt mean we have to treat every petty theft as a murder investigation.
Can someone explain to me why she was allowed to participate in the NYC Marathon for 2016, especially since she admittedly crashed the half for her selfie project? I thought they had a strict policy about this? http://www.tcsnycmarathon.org/kelly-roberts-brooklyn
oh but she is going to qualify….THIS TIME!!! right?
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