Over 250 Runners Caught Cheating at Shenzhen Half Marathon Is Not a Shock

Marathon running race people feet on city road,abstract

The story of over 250 Chinese Half Marathoner’s being disqualified has made the rounds internationally.

The sad reality is that having this many runners cutting a course in a large race is not at all surprising. It is normal.

While I typically focus on those cheaters that steal age group awards or Boston qualifying slots, there are a far greater number that cheat near the back of the packs.

We recently recorded a podcast Marc Roy of Sportstats (releasing soon). He shared that they often remove over 200 participants from race results.

I wrote about the 2015 Honolulu Marathon. Over 400 runners missed 3 or more timing mats. The vast majority of those runners very likely cut the course. Truth be told, the amount of course cutters at that race was likely greater than 400. I didn’t even report on the number of runners that missed 2 mats.

I reviewed the 2017 Disney World Marathon results and estimated that over 200 runners cut the course.

At this year’s Marine Corps Marathon over 100 runners were disqualified, and there were many more likely course cutters still in the results at last check.

Let’s not forget about The Mexico City Marathon. Over 5000 runners were disqualified for course cutting in both 2017 and 2018.

The case in China got attention because the runners were caught on camera. It makes a better story with the visual evidence. This happens on a comparable scale at nearly every race where the course provides the opportunity to cut across a street to shave a few miles. Maybe it’s 100 runners, maybe it’s 300.

We should stop acting shocked. Until cheating runners have real consequences, there is no deterrent to this behavior. Some races will ban runners that sell their bibs or that use bib mules in their races. Races are more hesitant to ban a couple hundred course cutters every year.

Again, I am hearing those that say that these mid or back of the pack cheaters are only cheating themselves. I don’t agree with that sentiment. Even those that aren’t qualifying for Boston or claiming fake age group awards are still cheating. Everyone that cuts a course and crosses the finish line to claim a finisher’s medal is cheating every honest participant. They are cheating everyone that put in the time to prepare and that honestly ran, or walked every inch of the course.

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  1. I have such pride in saying I have completed a marathon (3 now), to be part of a what is meant to be a special group of people who can run a marathon. Plenty of times I have wanted to pull out or cut short the distance in halfs or fulls but push on to get the reward. I don’t want that reward diluted with those who just pay for their medal or bragging rights

  2. Found this website after seeing this story. I’m a little disappointed that so many people are letting their accomplishments be affected by the behavior of others; or just like to see people shamed in general. I’m certainly not for cheating in sport or anywhere, and encourage the race directors to pull folks who intentionally cut-courses from races to prevent chaos. In some cases, like repeat cheaters, maybe stopping them from running the race again is appropriate. That said,why would anyone want to shame these people? I know it’s their choice to cheat, but they can’t have great esteem if they are going to races and cheating/taking credit for doing something they know they didn’t do. Who does that? I’d imagine they’d probably feel bad about it (or in general), while everyone else feels great after the race.

    Overall, someone in the back of the pack cheating, really doesn’t (shouldn’t) hurt those running legitimately (e.g. me and the vast majority of runners out there). If they want to cheat for whatever motivation, that’s their problem. It doesn’t dilute anyone’s “accomplishment”. At the end of the day literally no one cares about your marathon PR anyway; it’s strictly personal ( unless you’re Kipchoge — Kipchoge can be mad about cheating). Maybe it gets frustrating if you’re trying to BQ, but even then if some cheaters want to make it harder to get it, so be it. Boston’s a pretty soft goal anyways, I welcome the challenge :), if you put in more work and you’ll get there cheaters or not.

  3. I could never look at a medal I didn’t earn. Run, jog, walk, limp, crawl or roll…finish every step, finish every mile honestly. I agree…you don’t do every mile, you shouldn’t take a medal.

    • Many people are very good about lying to themselves or justifying what you and I would deem amoral. JD Greening is a great example. I don’t think those of us who follow this site will ever understand how someone can reconcile actions like these with themselves. Clearly something is psychologically broken.

  4. Nope. If I didn’t earn it, I don’t want it. I was once awarded an age-group first place medal. I was pretty certain I had actually come in second, so I queried it. As with most races, the top three women were removed from the age-group categories, but they accidentally removed the fourth-placed woman as well. And she was the person who should have had the age-group first place. Unfortunately by the time all this was sorted out, she had left. The RD told me to keep the medal anyway, but I gave it back. It wasn’t mine. I didn’t earn it.

  5. Derek, to give context am a big fan our your site but I don’t really understand the big deal about this. If I’m doing a marathon and I see someone cutting the course then I couldn’t care less, why would I, they’re not cheating me or diluting my accomplishment.

    Again if they pick up a medal, why would I care? I doubt they’ll be proud of that medal, they’ll never feel they earned it, all they’re picking up is a chunk of metal whereas we’re picking up a symbol of our accomplishment, nothing they do changes that.

    • And I won’t typically write individual reports outing the 6 hour course cutters.

      But, to me, and many, people falsely claiming to finish a marathon dillutes the accomplishment for those that did.

  6. Completely agree – you earn your medal. If someone gets the same reward for less work, it’s cheating everyone else, not just yourself.

  7. These folks should have signed up for the ‘half’ that I just ran and they would not have had to cut the course because the race directors did it for us. To boot, they did not inform the race participants before the run.

    We paid for what they claimed to be a USATF certified half, only to be given half-baked excuses. Sorry, I know it’s a tangent, but I’m still ticked a month later.

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