Last week I wrote about Ed Elsner. Ed first came to my attention as a result of his 2017 and 2018 results at the Mesa-Phoenix Marathon. There were red flags at those races. However, in my opinion, there was not enough evidence to warrant a disqualification based on those results alone. Ed’s 2017 result was used to gain entry into The 2018 Boston Marathon. His 2018 Mesa-Phoenix result will qualify him to run The Boston Marathon in 2019.
As a result of the initial report, I looked at Ed’s other marathon results. The 2016 RnR San Diego result showed clearly that Ed did not run the entire course. He did have an official finish time and appeared in photos with his finisher’s medal. Then, in June of this year, Ed ran in The RnR San Diego Marathon again. Once again it was clear that he did not run the entire course. Once again he appeared in finish photos with a finisher’s medal. He was eventually disqualified from this race and removed from the results.
Ed also has conveyed to me that he will be requesting his name be removed from the 2018 Boston Marathon and 2017 Mesa-Phoenix Marathon results (as well as 2016 RnR San Diego). He maintains that he did not cut the course in Phoenix, but does not want a result to stand where there is room for doubt. He stands by his 2018 Mesa-Phoenix result and plans to use that time to enter The 2019 Boston Marathon. His full statement appears later in the article.
Pacing The Marathon
While researching the initial article, I reached out to The San Diego Track Club. Ed was pictured in photos carrying the 4:00 pacer sign. I wanted to confirm that he was a pacer and also wanted to try to learn about the circumstances of his race. I reached out to The San Diego Track Club through their Facebook page to confirm that Ed was a pacer. Bill, who is listed as the club’s President on their website, responded. As detailed in the initial article, the information he gave me was that Ed dropped off the pace early, and rejoined the pace group and led them to the finish under his commitment. My research indicated that this was not accurate. I attempted to get clarification on a couple of occasions without receiving a further response. This is important, because this information was misleading and it seemed to serve to cover up the real circumstances of Ed’s participation.
After publishing the article, Ed immediately reached out. Note: I did attempt to reach Ed prior to publication. Ed also put me in touch with Paul at The San Diego Track Club. Paul is in charge of the pace teams and closer to the situation than Bill was. I spoke with Paul on the phone the same day the article was published. The story that Paul told lined up with Ed’s explanation and was more in line with my findings.
They report that Ed was the only 4 hour pace setter. Ed was a late fill in and Ed reports that he was not fully recovered after hiking Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim the month before. Ed and Paul informed me that he handed the pace stick to an ‘unofficial pacer’ when he dropped off the pace. He continued behind pace and crossed the course and joined back around mile 20. He finished the race alone, never seeing the unofficial pacer until after the race, at which point he retrieved the pace stick. Ed reports that he stayed near the finish, volunteering by handing out water. He stayed there until the area was cleared following an active shooter situation.
Paul informed me that sometimes they split pace duties among multiple runners. This was the case when Ed paced the first half of the 2016 RnR San Diego Marathon. Ed reports that he was pacing the 4:30 group. His overall pace for the first half of the race supports this. They started slow (Ed says due to course congestion) but steadied and finished the first half very close to the target. Ed then explained that after he fulfilled his pacing obligation, he cut across around the mile 14 mile marker, and ran with the 3:30 pace group for awhile.
Ed paced The 2017 RnR Marathon. He paced the full race this time, and ran with the 4:25 pace group. He finished a bit slower as he reported that he ran with a member of the Navy and stayed with him. His time supports this account.
All of this is relevant because it provides context as to his 2016 and 2018 results. It is unfortunate that I was originally misled, as I would have liked to have an accurate picture of these results.
At the core of his San Diego results are the fact that he received official times. There should have been a process in place that would ensure that pacers that did not plan to run he complete course would not appear in the race results. It should have been communicated to pacers that if they crossed the finish line without running the full race that they should immediately self report their result. After speaking to Paul, he assured me that going forward they would communicate with the pace teams to make sure that this situation does not repeat itself.
Had a process been in place, no one ever would have looked and not many would really have cared if he had a medal or if he appeared in finish photos.
If the race wants to award medals to the volunteers, that is up to them. It’s been reported that some pacers were told to take the medals as souvenirs. For Ed’s part, regarding taking the medal and appearing in the post finish line photos he “profoundly regrets it”.
RnR Marathons has greatly improved in many aspects. They have processes in place that automatically flag and catch nearly all instances of course cutting. No algorithm will catch all the course cutting automatically. It’s a fine line between setting parameters that catch everyone (you will also have false postitives) between catching ‘most’ automatically while not wrongly disqualifying any runners.
In the previous article, I mentioned items that, in my opinion were red flags regarding Ed’s results in 2017 and 2018. I referenced his late starts, his split differentials, and the missed 20 mile split in 2017. I asked Ed if he had GPS files to back up his time. Ed explained that he only uses his watch for pacing and that he always relied on the official times. He does not have the GPS data. Without the GPS data it is unlikely that there will ever be definitive proof regarding his 2017 Phoenix result. Ed issued the following statement, which he wished to convey publicly.
Even though I know I ran that 2017 race perfectly, I do not want to accept it with any room for doubt. I do want it to be made clear that this is my decision, not yours, or anybody elses. I want to preserve the integrity of the sport, even if it means sacrificing my perfect marathon. I want the opportunity to run the 2019 Boston Marathon, as my 2018 race had no flaws or areas of question. Also, the victory will be more meaningful when I qualify again. I really don’t care about the haters or the naysayers, doubters, and attackers. They have to look in the mirror and deal with their own issues. I’m a marathoner and a Ironman athlete. It’s more important to me to ensure that I am healthy and at peace to keep participating in both these sports, which I dearly love and respect. At 50 years of age, the opportunities become less and less. God has a plan, and He will guide me to the next challenge and victory.
Ed says he will take the steps to have his 2017 Mesa Phoenix and 2018 Boston results removed.
A Couple Points Regarding The Evidence
Below I address a couple key points that have come up on another blog and in comments on my article.
- Boston – I don’t take Ed’s Boston time (4:48:38) as evidence of his running capabilities or evidence of cheating. There were a few hundred runners that had larger discrepancies between their qualifying times and their Boston times than Ed had. Accounting for difficulty/ease of the qualifying course, Ed was further down my prioritized list to review than that. The vast majority of those runners ahead of him did not cheat. I do not take anything of value from his Boston time. While I use variances between Boston times and qualifying times to prioritize my review of runners, I never felt it was appropriate to use the variance as evidence in of itself.
- Lack of GPS – I would be hypocritical to use this as evidence in the strictest sense. I promise you I ran The Flying Pig Marathon. But I can’t prove it. I’m in a small handful of photos near the finish, and my GPS died, and the run was not saved and not recoverable. Granted, had I run faster than 6:55:45 the battery may have held out. It is feasible that there are runners that own watches that don’t sync or save their runs. Ed says he uses it as a tool to pace himself on the course. Yes a GPS file would be the strongest evidence in his favor, but the lack of GPS data is not used as a smoking gun in my investigations. Especially when a runner has not posted GPS on social media or Strava in the past.
Ed was admittedly emotional in his initial responses. After the dust settled we have been able to have a reasonable and civil dialogue conversations. As always, I strive to get all sides to every story and leave it to the reader to make their conclusions. While I sometimes offer my opinions publicly, I try to do so with great care.
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