Analysis of Frank Meza’s 2019 Sprouts Mesa-PHX Record Breaking Marathon Result

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Frank Meza has two record breaking Marathons in 2019. Yesterday I provided information relating to The 2019 Los Angeles Marathon.

Prior to The L.A. Marathon, Frank set an age group record at The Sprouts Mesa-PHX Marathon with a time of 2:53:54. There is evidence that indicates that Frank did not run the entire course.

Frank Meza#11020
MileChipGunTotal PaceSplit Pace
6.220:40:550:41:290:06:35
13.11:26:401:27:140:06:370:06:39
202:12:202:12:540:06:370:06:37
26.22:53:542:54:280:06:380:06:42

As with his 2019 Los Angeles Marathon result, Frank did not miss any checkpoints, and his splits are very consistent.

It is only after taking a closer look at the evidence that the validity of this result begins to unravel.

Photographic Evidence

In the above photo Frank is pictured ahead of runner #10405. Below are each runner’s gun (clock) times. The photo was taken after mile 25.

10405Frank Meza
MileGunGun
6.220:41:260:41:29
13.11:26:191:27:14
202:11:412:12:54
26.22:52:002:54:28

Comparing the splits to the photos, we get a picture of what would have happened.

Frank crossed the 20 mile marker over 1 minute behind runner 10405. He would have made up that minute over the next 5 plus miles (even though runner 10405 ran the last split at a 6:30 pace), only to be passed and beat by over 2-1/2 minutes in the last 1/2 mile or so.

As with Los Angeles, in the location where we have visual evidence of Frank on the course, his pace is significantly slower than his typical sub 3 hour marathon pace.

The below collection of photos are a sequential view of the photos, beginning with Frank.

The runner in the blue shirt was a half marathoner. He was behind Frank at this photo location. Frank and the half marathoner crosses the finish line at the same time. The runner in the blue shirt averaged over 13 minutes per mile for his half marathon. Frank lost ground to this runner over the last half mile or so of the race. By my calculations, at best, Frank ran this section at a 12 minute per mile pace, significantly slower than his 6:42 overall pace.

Video Evidence

The Sprouts Mesa-PHX Marathon has a video feed of the race on their Facebook page. The video was taken at approximately mile 22. The location on the course is noted below.

Frank should have been within a few minutes of runner 10405 at the point this video was taken. Frank crossed the 20 mile mat over a minute behind 10405, passed him at some point before being overtaken in the last mile.

Runner 10502 with 1:37:52 left in the video. Frank should be seen on the video within a few minutes before or after this clip.

I watched the 30 minutes of the video surrounding this point in the video. Frank did not appear in the video. The only reasonable explanation is that he did not run this section of the course.

Summary

I will forward this article to The Sprouts Phoenix-Mesa Marathon along with a request that they investigate Frank’s result. I have previously contacted The L.A. Marathon regarding Frank’s 2019 result.

When I report on more of Frank’s results the pattern will become even more clear. Whenever Frank’s pace can be verified through course photos or video, his pace is significantly slower than his official splits. This pattern will further show itself in upcoming investigations.

Frank has become meticulous with his pacing in between the timing mats. Without the photo and video evidence, there would be no evidence that Frank did not run the full course at Mesa-PHX.

It is my opinion based on his split times, and his pace over the last half mile or so, that he specifically targeted his finish time and carefully monitored his pace at the checkpoints to make sure they were consistent and believable.

He slowed down significantly at the end of the race, to the point that a 2:55:00 Half Marathoner outkicked him down the stretch.

Frank’s time beat the unofficial record of 2:54:23 set by Gene Dykes at The 2018 Toronto Marathon by less than 1 minute. By slowing his pace, he beat Gene’s time by what may have seemed like a reasonable margin at the time.

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42 COMMENTS

    • Yes it certainly is. Well done Derek.

      However, the video is the most damning and easiest to follow part, but is buried near the bottom of the article. I think I would have led with that and then have the rest as additional evidence. To be honest, I found the stuff at the beginning a little unclear and difficult to understand or be sure at to what point was being made.

      Excellent nonetheless and as has been said, the video alone merits a certain disqualification. If he didn’t run past the camera, then he didn’t run that part of the course.

      .

      • I felt that I had to start with the photos which I used to determine where he should be relative to the other runner in the video.

        • Agreed that the context of the photos with 10405 and table of gun times provides the needed context to understand why the video is the smoking gun — plus the video is in the context of the 10405 photo and gun times.

          However, the relevance and math with the half-marathoner is confusing or incomplete. You say the half marathoner averaged 13 min/mile and was behind Frank at 25 miles but with him at the finish, which would make Frank slower than 13 mins/mile; but then you say Frank was about 12. Some data point regarding the half marathoner is missing here.

    • Although I was skeptical of the circumstantial nature of the evidence in the first article, the video is very persuasive evidence. The angle is wide enough to capture the sidewalk, the median, and the street on the other side of the median, so it can’t be argued that he snuck around the camera angle somehow.

      • Vince Slupski, Derek gave Meza the opportunity to explain the photo of him re-entering the course in the 2019 LAM and in his own words he “did pull off [the course] to to pee one time” on a “building wall maybe 20 yards from street” a process which took him “a few secs.”

        In other words, he explicitly states that he was ON THE COURSE except for the “few secs” he left the course to pee, yet in the video Derek made of the sequential photos — which show the full course, sidewalk to sidewalk, approaching mile 11.62 — he cannot ever be seen leaving the course to pee.

        Derek invited Meza to provide additional information that might have explained that evidence (the video of sequential photos), but instead of offering that he may have been “sneaking around” the camera angle (for example by running on the sidewalk in and around the crowd of spectators for an extended distance for some inexplicable reason) Meza simply denied he cut the course and ended the communication.

        So, not even Meza is making the argument you are saying is possible, and if he did it would have directly contradicted his prior statement that he was running ON THE COURSE except for a “few secs.”

        • Meza appears in the sequential photos a half-block away from the camera. If he had left the course on the block before, he could have come up the right sidewalk, which is not in view of the camera – look again. Everything on the preceding block is pretty indistinct. I maintain the first post had weak evidence for ruining a guy’s reputation, but the Mesa video is much stronger. But people have been arguing about the Zapruder film for more than 50 years, so who knows.

          • Vine Slupski, again, not even Meza is arguing that he left the course a block away and came up on the right sidewalk…he had plenty of opportunity to make that argument but did not. The sequential photos show the course –unobstructed — which meza says he was on except when he left the course only for a “few secs” to pee on a wall. His own admissions cannot be reconciled with a theory that he could have left the course to run on the sidewalk for a block. It’s not a debate about an indistinct video, the theory is ruled out entirely by Mezas own statements. He would have been seen leaving the course where he was pictured re-entering the course

  1. This would also explain his use of two watches. One is a total running time, the other would be for traveling in between splits for consistent pacing.

    • I wear two watches – an Apple and a Garmin. The Apple so I can call or text my wife to find her at the finish line, the Garmin because the Apple Watch sucks for accurate tracking compared to the Garmin.

  2. Ouch. Has he made any response to the lack of video evidence? I hope he does because I really want to hear what excuse he comes up with for this one!

    • “I stopped to pee on the side of a building. It is to the far left of the view of this camera, beyond those trees. After finishing, I ran alongside the buildings to the far left of the sidewalk, which is why you can’t see me. I was in a hurry and wanted to make up for lost time, so I did not jump onto the road until I was past the camera.”

  3. Given the evidence, I struggle to see how Frank can talk himself out of that. The splits are perfectly reasonable in themselves, he obviously prepares his cheating with precision. But he’s made mistakes and the truth is now out, what a fraud! Excellent investigative work on this, well done!

  4. Anyone that sets a record at an event like this has got to be wearing a GPS device. Who doesn’t these days? Share a strava/Garmin/whatever GPS and the discussion is over. I believe there has to be some form of GPS to support any “course record”.

    • Why? I’m not refuting anything about that this guy cheated. But I’ll never understand why people actually think wearing a GPS or not is dispositive of anything. Most fast runners who grow up racing in high school and college aren’t allowed to even race with watches on, and many if not most faster runners I know don’t bother with a GPS in a race. I’ve never used anything but a stopwatch myself and it has no effect on my running ability.

  5. What I just can’t figure out is HOW? Is it a bib mule for the majority of miles then exchanging the bib near the end? Even this scenario seems really tough to pull off, every single time! (Great work, Derek!)

    • I would say that with enough time to prepare and the brains to plot it out, one can certainly figure out how / where to jump back in the course and at exactly what time. A lot of preparation has gone into this, probably more so than most cheaters.

    • The thing is that people who don’t have a cheating mindset have never tried to cheat. It isn’t like you get one shot at it, I suggest that the cheater practices at many events over a long time and DNFs when they cock it up so nobody notices. Over time they learn all the tricks of the trade, delayed start, easily covered number, anonymous clothing that can hide a number or be shed to alter appearance, two watches, working out the best route to the mats, whether the mats can be triggered from the sides without going on course. The only thing they can’t cater for is random video cameras and random mats but even then you get the people who claim that chips fail all the time.

    • You are looking at the course, the race info, the timing mat locations from the point of view of a runner entering a race. Your objective is to run the course as fast as you can. Think of if you saw the race info and the course map months ahead of time, but had absolutely NO intention of running it. Think of it as if you saw the event as a strategy game instead of a race. You might pull up Google maps, figure out the best path for a driver to drop you off and pick you up at timing mats (the locations of which are listed,) and then resort to other tactics like wearing two watches, which allow you to keep track of race time when you’re not actually on the course, and a bib belt, which allows you to easily hide and un-hide your number.

  6. As far as the photo sequence, could it be that the photos were not sequential or were taken by a different photographer?

    • No. They are specifically labeled as being taken before/after the chosen photo. Also you can follow the progression of runners in the sequence.

  7. That guy has it figured out for the most part. He knows where the mats are. He just needs to get the camera side of the equation worked out. Although I really was hoping that he was legit, so that my possibility of a sub-three hour marathon would be waiting on me to arrive in my senior years!

  8. Why, with all the money these races charge and make, DO THEY NOT HAVE timing mats and video at every mile? Is there a reason? I’m perplexed by this. I know the video is doable right now. Regarding the mats, does the lack of mile by mile placement have something to do with USATF or some other reason? Maybe it’s something prohibitive with the software/hardware systems that gather this data? With these 2 installed, the only way to cheat is to ‘juice’ or GO GO GADGET ROLLERBLADE.

    Better still, why is it not mandatory for podium finishing or record breaking athletes provide GPS data, should their run validity come into question.

    • In response to your last question because there’s no reason that record breaking athletes should be required to wear a GPS watch and I believe the most probably don’t. Many fewer faster runners actually wear a GPS watch than people who follow Derek’s message boards think simply because GPS data so frequently comes into play in his calculations. I’ve never worn a GPS watch but I would find wearing it to be distracting, just want simple data of my manual mile splits and total time and don’t want to worry about the watch being charged/accurate before/during a race etc. Sorry, just my own personal schtick I guess about people are all about the GPS these days.

      • With most modern GPS watches you can select what shows on the watch face. So you could just have running time and time of day if you choose, so you aren’t distracted by sometimes dubious pace etc. All the data will still be there afterwards. You can also do manual splits at mile markers as you pass them.

      • I’m a club runner in UK, I know many 14 to 15 minute 5K athletes, everyone wears GPS, the only people who don’t are some people in their 60s and 70s whose glory days were in the 1980s when GPS running watches were not in existence and they seem to think GPS makes you slower because they will not listen that you don’t need to look at it any more than any watch during a run.

      • I’m sorry. Many don’t wear them? Wrong! Most current competitive long distance runners wear a GPS enabled watch at least for their races. Maybe not ALL runs but when you’re “allegedly” going for world records, you want to know to the second how well you’re doing. Come on! Frank Meza NOT wearing a GPS watch during these races is just another smoking (smoldering/on fire, nuclear) gun. I

  9. Your data table and time comparison between the two runners at the start of the article don’t make sense. The only thing that matters is gun time. Compare time of day.

  10. It’s a more confusing article than usual, but I think that’s because this guy must have spent a long time planning his cheats. I don’t really get how he did it. One thing that might help is if race organisers, (as well as the ‘published’ timing mats) add another one at an undisclosed location. Of course the cheater would eventually find out where it was on a given year, but it would cut down on meticulously planned cheating like this I think. Disagree with some posters about the watch, I’m in 3 running clubs, including one with runners that have had national recognition (in the UK). Everyone I know including the fast runners track their runs, and certainly there racers.

  11. The planning and course knowledge that must go into hitting all those splits and mats is impressive. Is he riding a bike? Does he have an accomplice? A 90 degree marathon in long sleeves? So many questions.

    Also at 1:06:20 (1:41:27 remaining) in that video there are two women who enter the course from god knows where and then wave to the camera (bibs 3260 and 4467). I don’t think they broke any age group records though.

  12. Derek,
    Did you happen to try to contact runner 10405? If some older dude kept disappearing and reappearing during a race and then finished ahead of me, I’d surely notice it. I even notice when somebody catches back up with me after a porta-potty break, or when they catch me on a downhill after a passed them on an uphill.

  13. I’ve always respected and enjoyed MarathonInvestigation.com, but this time, it seems more personal: I ran this marathon. (~3:08). Trained damn hard for it. Don’t like the idea of a cheater being one of the guys ahead of me on the results!

  14. Meza has carefully designed his cheating regimen with Derek’s cursory analysis in mind, making sure that he hits all the timing mats and in consistent times so as not to be flagged. Seeing videos of him hiding behind the light post and waiting for just the right time to emerge. And being on the side of the road stretching… and then popping out at a preplanned moment. I wonder how he gets from place to place? If no accomplice- perhaps with a series of pre-placed rental cars?

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