Philadelphia Marathon Analysis – No Shortage of Questionable Results


Historically, the Philadelphia Marathon has had it’s share of course cutters. The course itself gives multiple opportunities for the would be course cutter to cut miles. Up until last year the organization turned a blind eye towards cheating. Last year that changed. With new management in place, the marathon did a much better job removing cheaters from the results.

In looking at the initial 2017 Philadelphia Marathon results, it appears that there is no shortage of those attempting to cut the course.

**There were 7807 total finishers – I analyzed the first 7015 runners. Mats were pulled late in the race. Including the last of the runners would skew the analysis.””

Total Finishers: 7015
split missed mats percent
10k 36 0.5%
13.1 Mi 32 0.5%
30k 233 3.3%
Total 301 1.4%

Notice the jump in missed mats at the 30k split: from the map below you can see that the 30k is along a long out and back stretch. There would be ample opportunities to cut on this section of the course.


In fact, if someone were so inclined,  they could cross the 1/2 mat, go about another mile and cross the finish line.

There actually was a runner that finished the first half in over 3 hours, and the 2nd half in about 20 minutes. I think that was more the case of someone just bailing – although there is no reason to cross the finish. That runner is currently sitting in first place in their age group. They are sure to be removed from the results.

253 runners missed at least one timing mat. As detailed above the first two mats were missed just 0.5% of the time. There was obviously more that led to the large # of misses of the 30k mat.

If you acccept that 30-40 misses of the 30k were legitimate, that leaves approximately 200 runners that cut the course. This is a rough, non-scientific estimate. The vast majority of those runners were not age group winners or Boston Qualifiers. Let’s look at the BQ #s.

Boston Qualifiers

Boston Qualifiers: 984 runners
split missed mats percent
10k 7 0.7%
13.1 Mi 9 0.9%
30k 33 3.4%
Total 49 1.7%

You see a similar increase with the last mat. I am looking into these runners more thoroughly. In addition to those with missed splits, I have some flagged with unexpectedly fast split times between the 30k and the finish. These would be runners that may have cut after the 30k mat.

I have come across a number of likely repeat offenders. I will detail those results in a second article to come out next week. So far, there about 15 BQ runners that I am confident in saying cut the course.

There area larger # of runners  that have missed splits where their paces didn’t change so substantially that I can say without a doubt that they cut the course.

There was a timing mat at the turnaround. Those splits are not published, but the race uses that as an additional piece of information to determine which runners cut before the turnaround. I will be monitoring the results to see which of those runners may be disqualified.

More To Come

Some of the runners I have identified as likely course cutters were also identified last year. I will be writing on the repeat offenders next week. I also want to see photographs so I can try to determine which runners were proudly displaying their marathon medals after running less than the 26.2 miles required.

Additionally, I will be writing about a running club founder that openly and blatantly encourages running with other’s bibs. He states that others can run with the chip or without the chip depending on if the original owner wants credit for the time. This runner used another’s bib to run in Philadelphia this past weekend.

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One Time Contribution


  1. Ah Philly, here we go again. I am hoping that the race considers what is currently posted for results as UNOFFICIAL and that you just got your analysis done before they did. If it was 2015 or earlier I would expect that to not be the case with the previous RD, but last year they did a much better job of DQing runners with funky chip splits.

  2. My only request is:
    Make sure the people you call out actually have a history of times that could be considered false.
    I know philly had a TON of issues with faulty times this year and it would be a shame for you to accuse someone who actually finished honestly.

  3. FWIW, there did seem to be some technical difficulties with the timing mats. I only had a 10k split, didn’t get any results for the 13.1 or 30k mat. Of course fast split times would definitely make course cutters more clear. Thank you for your work to keep it fair.

  4. Why don’t the race organizers just contract with a timing company that is willing to put more mats down? It just seems so…easy. Heck, all you really need is one more mat at the turnaround or Maybe you have one slightly before the turnaround and then another one slightly after it.

  5. I’m not questioning the numbers, but 2-3% seems amazingly high to me. Did the real runners see the people who cut / re-entered the course? And what’s the intention of those who missed mat(s)? If they were tired and dropped out, why did they decide to go through the finish line? And regardless of their intent, if asked about their marathon experience, what would they say?

    • “Did the real runners see the people who cut / re-entered the course?”

      Would be really hard to tell on the last 13 miles. Out and back right next to each other. Water stations in the middle of the two. Spectators and support staff crossing the road. Runners crossing the road to use porta potties and woods on either side. Not to mention who is really paying that close attention when suffering through the last 10k of a marathon.

      “And what’s the intention of those who missed mat(s)? If they were tired and dropped out, why did they decide to go through the finish line?”

      Philadelphia funnels the finish into a secure area that pretty much forces you to cross the finish line to get out. Unless you want to hop a fence. I had one marathon where I really didn’t want to finish with an ugly number and was planning on going around the finish line so not to trigger a time. Couldn’t do it because the last half mile was gated. Pretty much same last 1/4+ of Philly.

  6. What a silly website…. are you really investigate 1.7% of the finshers of an American marathon??? Like it is a crime?
    Only in the US…. strange country.

    • It’s simple, Theo. The people who barely qualify for the Boston Marathon can spend years attempting to reach that goal, and sometimes there’s only one real shot to make it. The people who barely MISS qualifying are the same, and some of those are pushed out by cheaters. Sportsmanship is important here. Where are you from that this is so strange?

      • You are not the only country were sportsmanship is important. Really, there is a whole adult world outside the US were normal adult people live in normal adult countries. I know that accusing people in the US is nowmal these days. In the Netherlands I qualified for Boston many times in my age group (40-45) and I still see no reason why a grow up guy is publising photo’s and names of athletes on the internet who might have been cheating on a freaky marathon. Based on finish times and missed mats? Its a joke not? This site must be a joke. We had a big laugh about it during a long distance run in the weekend in Amsterdam. My fellow long distance runners didnt believed me that in the US such a website really exsist…

        • To put it in perspective, hundreds of runners are trying to qualify for Boston by training, apparently hundreds more are trying to qualify by cheating. There are limited places and one cheat takes away one genuine qualifiers place. This one website is collating and analysing information – doesn’t seem to extreme considering the number of websites out there? It’s similar to websites which call out Walter Mitties – those who swan around in military uniforms full of stories of valour and medals awarded in campaigns from the crimea to afghanistan …. liars and cheats. I

          • As well you’d probably not understand as there are no qualifying times for Amsterdam marathon – first come first served. London has good for age, but it’s a guaranteed entry if you pass the qualifying time. Boston (though you seem to not have done any research m, in spite of the fact you seem aware of qualifying time) is “fastest first” so although you may run a qualifying time (an opportunity to submit an application) you may still be refused if someone has managed to get a better time by cheating… I’ve still to meet any runner/triathlete who would condone such behaviour – or as you put it have a good laugh about it!

        • I’ll leave it to you to peruse this site and read more articles to learn how cheaters are caught, and under what conditions a cheater is actually identified here, which is an extremely small percentage of those caught. The author has outlined his guidelines himself on multiple occasions. But you have greatly mischaracterized what the author does here, even if catching and deterring cheating is funny to you.

        • Derek doesn’t post most names/pictures. He does a great job of analyzing information (time, pictures, missing data, anecdotes, history) to determine if people are cheating, in fact he does the same thing some races do to analyze data. Running as a sport has been behind the times trying to keep up with doping and other forms of cheating, one guy’s hobby is helping validate the sport by encouraging races to check their results thoroughly.

  7. I have a runner I suspect had her partner carry her nUmber for the first half (6:40 pace) and handed off for the second half (8:30 pace). She ran Chicago, nyc, and the rocky run this fall with her fastest time around 4:15 and just ran a 3:22 in philly. Any way you can look into this anonymously?

  8. No DQ’s appearing at Philly yet. Added one finisher since the initial results came out but deleted no one. Any word on progress in the DQ department for the course cutters?

      • This site is so funny, come on: you have to admit it! I like wasting my time on it. Mature adult people spending their time on ‘discovering’ cheaters who ran a marathon. Looking at full HD pictures and full family names of US runners who might have cut a course in a marathon. It’s reading like a soap. You guys telling yourself that all these people are trying to qualify themselfs for Boston. Keep up the good work!!

        • Well Theo, it’s not exactly “gods” work, and I’m pretty sure any reasonable person can come to that conclusion. And honestly, the way some people get worked up about marathon “cheats” (at least the ones that don’t really affect podium winners, BQ’s, etc), it is absolutely ridiculous when you consider the bigger problems of the world. But for whatever reason, there is a SMALL subset of people who are passionate about this.

          What I don’t understand is why YOU are getting so worked up over this website? You do realize that the internet is a great big world and let me tell you, there is certainly more ridiculous websites than this one. WHY are you following this one in particular?

        • So Theo, how many marathons have you cheated your way to the finish of? I’m pretty sure that any serious long distance runner or just about anyone who cares about the integrity of running as a sport welcomes the fact that there is someone out there catching the cheaters.

          This was also the site which got a young man, falsely accused of cheating the London Marathon, re-instated to the results by showing that the timing chip incorrectly registered his start time.

          But hey ho, you keep on having a laugh, the hits from you visiting the site can only help it.

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