“Bib Mule” Wanted: Runner receives lifetime ban from California International Marathon


Leading up to most marathons (especially those that are sold out) you can usually find runners attempting to sell their bibs. The below post appeared on Craigslist leading up to The California International Marathon (CIM):

The post came to the attention of race director, Eli Asch. Through their website, the race shared their response:

The letter revealed that the runner has been banned from participating in the 2017 CIM as well as all future editions of CIM.

Beyond being a clear violation of event rules, paying a bib mule to run a Boston Qualifier for you goes even several steps further–it compromises the integrity of our event and its results, is intentional and premeditated cheating, and goes against the very spirit of the marathon. It is unethical and wrong, and could result in robbing someone of a spot on the Boston Marathon starting line–a spot that they fairly earned.

In light of this, your entry for this year’s California International Marathon has been invalidated and you are banned from future editions of the California International Marathon. Additionally, the Sacramento Running Association will be sharing your information with Marathon Investigation, which maintains a flagged list of runners whose results deserve further scrutiny, as well as other running organizations including many major races in our region as well as the Boston Athletics Association, organizers of the Boston Marathon. Beyond that we will keep your personal information confidential (although we reserve the right to change that stance if your future actions necessitate it).

The race would consider a reduction of the ban down to 3 years if the runner fully cooperates with their investigation. So far, the runner has not responded.

A Fair Punishment

One commentor on Facebook felt that the punishment seemed harsh for selling a bib. It should be made very clear that this wasn’t the case of someone trying to offload a bib when they were injured or just unable to run a race. (CIM does allow deferrals). This runner was giving his bib away in the attempt to run a specific time. The race confirmed that the runner was specifically looking for a buyer to run a BQ time.

It is unfortunate that races have to take these steps, and that they have to spend their time dealing with bib sellers, bib mules, course cutters and bandits. Whenever a race is forced to turn their attention to cheating, that is time they are not able to devote to other aspects of the race.  There have been recent high profile examples of races having to devote significant effort to deal with cheating and bandits.

The Miami Marathon race director reported catching over 200 bandits as they approached the finish line.  More recently, a runner was apprehended by local police on Disneyland property after fraudulently obtaining another runner’s bib.

Partnership With Marathon Investigation

As announced earlier this week, CIM and Marathon Investigation have entered into a formal partnership. As a Platinum Level partner, CIM is showing the highest level of commitment in taking a stand against cheating. As part of our agreement, I will serve on The CIM Results Committee in the role of Results Verification Partner. I am proud to be associated with this great event.

*UPDATE – For the third consecutive year, for 2019, Marathon Investigation is working with CIM as their results verification partner.

If you witness unauthorized bib selling or cheating in any form, please report the activity.

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  1. Glad to see that your work is paying off and RDs are taking this seriously! Hopefully the cheating will lessen as more consequences are doled out.

  2. No one is talking about who profits from no show runners. Does it go to charity? How about going to volunteers? No ? Some events plan for this gap while, ready willing and able runners miss out when it is “sold out”
    Over selling happens
    I’d like to know the % 95 90
    Bibswitch is a great solution
    Tell us how much is unwilling donated on average.
    Please $ show me the money

    • Actually, overselling races is quite common and probably results in MORE runners being able to participate. Most courses have a maximum number of runners they can support (due to ordinances, etc..) and if RDs only sold the maximum allowed spots, then there would be far fewer on race day due to runners not starting (injuries, personal events, etc..). By overselling the race, they can assume a 95% (or whatever) start rate and oversell by 5%, thus maximizing the bodies on the course. Plus, bib swapping is not a zero sum (so, no reason to show you any money) – there is a cost involved in this process – whether that be by the company that hosts the sign-up links or the credit card transaction fees. In the end, no one is talking about it because it is a moot point. Offering bib swap would almost certainly change how much they can oversell by and the math probably becomes quite a bit fuzzier and more difficult to estimate oversell.

    • So called ” no show” runners still cost the race $ because permits were issued, porta potties rented, medals and shirts ordered and paid for, police overtime paid, snacks purchased, and more…

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