Some people think I should only write about people that are cheating for Boston or for Age Group wins. Some people think back of the pack runners should get a pass. I disagree.
While MarathonInvestigation.com has evolved over the past three years, the goal has largely been the same – to catch and deter cheaters. The site initially got attention for my review of The 2015 Boston Marathon results.
Change of Process – Not a Change of Focus
When I investigated The 2015 Boston Marathon, and initially found over 60 runners that cheated, or illegally obtained bibs to gain entry, people took notice. The process was detailed in Runner’s World. I found these 60 runners through a prioritized review of approximately 3000 Boston finishers.
That project took up nearly all of my time related to the site. For months I was working on the analysis, and I was not writing about the individual cases.
My review of The 2016 Boston Marathon was similar. I looked through the top 400 runners on my prioritized list and found 40 runners that cheated to run the Marathon.
A result of catching these runners after the fact was that I had plenty of stories where I could write about runners that I knew cheated for the specific purpose of entering Boston. When someone cheats and actually enters Boston, the stories get more interest. But my goal is to prevent these runners from entering in the first place.
Beginning with 2017 Boston Qualifying races and continuing to today, my focus is on preventing these runners from ever running in Boston, and preventing them from stealing entries from legitimate runners.
Most of the times when I identify someone that cut the course that earns a qualifying time, I report them to the race and they are usually removed.
I don’t write about every runner that cuts a course with a Boston qualifying time. Runners are being caught and reported to the races and timers on a weekly basis. If I find a pattern of cheating or if the instance of cheating was particularly egregious, I may decide to write a story. If the runner is an ‘influencer’ and has lied to followers, I am likely to write a story.
While some readers may not be as interested in reading about mid pack or back of the pack cheating, it is still important to try to make an impact against all cheating. If there has been an increase in these articles, it does not represent a change in my priorities.
The best way I can judge my success is by looking at the top 100 or 200 runners on my prioritized list of Boston finishers. In the first two years, about 10% of those runners were determined to have cheated. That percentage dropped significantly with my review of The 2017 and 2018 Boston Marathon finishers.
To me, this indicates that the most obvious of cheaters are being identified before they get a chance to run in Boston.
All Cheating Matters
Beginning around 2017 I had help with the data. I was able to obtain results from most races in spreadsheet format, including splits. I automated my formulas, and could quickly identify all likely course cutters for any given race. I started writing about mass cheating at races like Honolulu, Disney, and Mexico City.
I started hearing criticism that I should be focusing only on Boston.
- To elite runners, those cheating for a podium spot matters.
- To runners that are at the top of their age groups, age group cheating matters.
- To runners trying to qualify for Boston, cheating for a Boston entry matters.
In all of the examples above, the underlying action is the same. Cheating is cheating. Cheating just to finish matters, too. Cutting a course is inherently the same whether it leads to a BQ time, an age group finish, a podium spot, or just a finish under the time limit. In my opinion, all cheating matters, and course cutting, or bib muling should not be excused simply because someone didn’t cheat enough to steal a podium spot or secure a Boston entry.
The ability to pull in all the splits from every runner has allowed me to look at all course cutters with almost no additional effort.
It’s Not (Really) About The Clicks
December through February are generally slow for the site. There are a limited number of marathons. I’ve already dug deeply into qualifiers for The 2019 Boston Marathon. I don’t receive many new tips. I usually focus on some more in depth stories, and some general articles. This year was a bit of an exception. The stories regarding Disney cheating, bib stealing, Valerie Reyes, and Bre Tiesi Manziel, generated quite a bit of interest. None of these affected any awards or prize money. But they were all important.
Whenever I write a story, new visitors find the site and follow Marathon Investigation on social media. That means more people will see future articles. All of this leads to expanding the audience, which leads to more tips, and hopefully serves as a deterrent against future cheating.
I don’t write anything for clicks. If site traffic was all that mattered, I could spit out multiple articles a day and highlight each and every person caught cutting a course. I try to be responsible with the topics I chose and who I focus on, while always having an eye on the goals of the site.
The focus of the site has not changed at all. I believe that Marathon Investigation is more successful than ever at preventing cheaters from getting into Boston as well deterring cheating in general.
If I find cheaters getting into The 2019 Boston Marathon at the same rate as in 2015, I will re evaluate my processes and my focus. I am always looking at new ways to review results and runners. I know where my blind spots are and am trying new methods to weed out even more cheaters.
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