Marine Corps Marathon Cheaters Strike A Chord With Honest Runners – More Course Cutting Uncovered

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Cheating at The Marine Corps Marathon strikes a chord with many honest runners. I receive more reports of course cutting by back of the pack runners at this race than almost any other (with The possible exception of Walt Disney World Marathon). I received multiple reports regarding a woman cutting the course on the way to a 6:30:00 finish. While I can’t write about all of these runners, I wanted to acknowledge the reports.

However, in reviewing the results of The 2018 MCM, I noted the out and back section between 10k and 15k. (6.2 and 9.3 miles). In the article about Robert’s serial course cutting, this section was identified as one of multiple locations that he likely cut.

As suspected, many runners turned around early.

There are runners with split times of less than 10 minutes over the 5k section. There is one runner that traversed this section of the course in 5 minutes and 10 seconds.

A 1 minute and 23 second per mile pace! The runner also missed the 30k split. As shown below, this is another out and back section.

While the runner and most of the runners that cut these sections above did not qualify for Boston, there is another runner that almost slipped through my analysis that seemingly cut these section to shave the few minutes that he needed to qualify for Boston.

Boston Qualifier

This runner’s splits are as follow:

The pattern is the same as the first runner, but not nearly as blatant or obvious.

His pace picked up significantly from 10k to 15k. From over 7 minute miles to just over 5 minute per mile pace.

He also missed the 30k split with no significant change in pace. But for a runner that just needed to shave minutes off of his total pace, shortening the course and taking a break could be just enough to come in under the needed time.

His previous race times show that he is generally a 3:20:00 marathoner with a best time of just over 3:17:00. His shorter races do not show any history of ever racing at a sub 6 minute pace.

The qualifying standard for this runner is 3:05:00. Finishing in just over 3:01:00 would appear to be sufficient to punch his ticket to Boston. Based on his pace differential, he likely shaved 6 minutes or more off of his time on the first out and back. If he did indeed cut the course between 30k and 35k, that may have provided the needed rest to finish safely under the standard.

Note: I decided to conceal this runner’s identity as this is the only race of his that I found evidence of cutting, and while I suspect the motivation was to run Boston, I did not find anywhere that he personally stated his plans to run Boston.

This runner has been reported to timing officials.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Off-topic: Found this BBC report of a disqualification at Hull: Man banned for ‘not running’ Hull Marathon

    A spokesman said there was little evidence of him taking part.
    “The runner appears to have not actually run the race, with evidence only of his presence at chip timing mats and the finish line,” he said.


    He showed up at the timing mats? Are his splits suspicious?
    What is the evidence of his non-presence? Photos?
    Since the person is not named, there is no way to check any of this.

  2. If he’s really a Lt. he’s got some nerve running by all those pictures of fallen servicemen and their family members holding flags, or taking a medal and getting a salute from a uniformed Marine at the finish if he cheated. Why does this strike a chord and make other runners mad? My PR in the marathon was at the MCM (albeit back in the dark ages, OK?). I missed qualifying for Boston by 2 minutes, had kids, got busy with my new house and new job, never came close again.

  3. Talk about conduct unbecoming an officer. If his CO finds out about being a cheater he may have some explaining to do.

  4. Not commenting on any specific runners and definitely not any BQs, but the 30K “out and back” section is called “the gauntlet” and is a point where some (back of the pack) runners are actually redirected by course officials to complete the course within overall course time limits. Obviously their time is not supposed to count. See http://www.marinemarathon.com/about/faq and look for the question “What is the gauntlet?”

    So they finish, they’ll show up in your results, eventually they’ll probably get scrubbed (or not) and they may (probably) get a medal. I just want to point out they’re really not “cheating” or cutting the course — they’re following a long and well established policy of shortening the course and allowing some back of the packers to still complete a shortened race.

    • The runners I am referencing were not swept due to missing the cutoff. They specifically cut to avoid being swept. But Thank you for pointing this out.

      • No worries… your opening paragraph referred to “more reports of course cutting by back of the pack runners” and I just wanted to make clear that some are not cutting by choice (also called cheating), particularly if it’s the 30K split they’re missing.

  5. Let’s talk about these “Experts” that “certify” the course. Why don’t they realize the possibility of cheating in this section. Have the route changed; mandate that there be a timing mat here; require staff at this location. The honest runners have spent months; some spend years improving, to accomplish an honest finish time. We deserve better from these events.

    • Your points are sound but race directors are always challenged with changing traffic patterns, construction etc. The MCM, in particular, has other challenges because they want to either a) adhere to previous routes AND b) ensure the runners make it past the highlight monuments in the D.C. area. So they are bound to get stuck doing some of this out and back stuff.

      Regardless, it’s tough to do in a setting like that. Other smaller races in other less important venues probably don’t have the same excuse.

    • Hi Andy-

      I think you’re sort of confusing a “measurer”, a “certifier”, and a “race director” or “course director”. They can be the same person, but often are not. For a race as big as MCM, they almost certainly are different people.

      The “certifier” is the person that checks the calculations made by, physical measuring process, and map drawn by the “measurer” in order to insure that the course, as designed, meets USATF standards for the distance. The “certifier” has nothing to do with the actual design of the course, and nothign to do with how the course is actually set up on race day and what route the runners take.

      The “measurer” is the person (or people in some cases) that measures the course using the procedures in the USATF RRTC manual. The measurer takes his or her cues from the Race Director or Course Director for the race he or she is measuring as to where to start and finish, what route to take, and if certain parts of the course are to be run in a certain way (for example, runners may be limited to only part of a road’s width). Sometimes a measurer will make suggestions to the RD/CD regarding certain technical elements of the course based on their experience. For example, if I am measuring a course and the RD tells me it has to start in a specific spot and it has to finish in a certain spot, then the course needs to have a place where I can adjust distances, for example an out-and-back section. If there isn’t an out-and-back I will suggest to the RD that either the start or finish (or both) needs to have some flexibility, otherwise I’m not going to be able to get it to an exact 5k/10k/marathon distance. As a measurer I may also make other suggestions based on my racing experience and also experience I have producing races related to actual runner behavior in a race. I will often make suggestions regarding where I think chip mats or Course Monitors would be appropriate, but the RD isn’t required to take my advice.

      The RD/CD is really the person that is tasked with setting the race up to meet reasonable competitiveness standards, not the certifier or measurer. The RD/CD needs to be the “buck stops here” person to make sure their courses are properly designed, marked, and monitored. Some RDs care less than others, sad to say. The races that have reputations for playing fast and loose with usual competitive standards are well known and get a lot of negative publicity on this site and others, but until runners start voting with the feet by not doing those races those RDs have no reason to raise the bar. You’re 100% right, “we deserve better from these events”. Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen until runners start boycotting races that continue to allow rampant course cutting and an anything goes attitude.

  6. He’s a firefighter. While Derek masked his identify, it’s not hard to figure out through MCM results. While all course cutting is a disgrace, this is the worst kind…tactical cheating to shave minutes to get a BQ and rob a worthy runner of running Boston. Ok the worst kind would be to WIN (Rosie Ruiz!), this is the second worst kind.

  7. Just did the MCM and the course has tons of opportunities to cut the course. I went into it injured and ended up having to walk (more like shuffling while dragging my right leg) the last 11 miles. I was either going to drop out or finish the whole course, was not going to cut any of it. Ended up doing 26.7 miles according to my gps! Not sure why anybody would be proud of a medal if you don’t complete the race.

  8. I agree Michael. I’ve done MCM 2x and always wondered why there wasn’t a mat at 7.5m. You run along that entire out and back in the park with only a double yellow line separating you from the return lane. If you want to catch a cheat, you need to think as one. It’s a simple matter of stopping on the line to say to tie your shoe, and then once you stand up to continue your “race”, just head the other way. Not that I would ever do such a low life thing. Heck, my wife tells me I’m always competing for last. I’m actually on for MCM 2019 having deferred my 2018 reg.

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