Mexico City Marathon – New Medals, Similar Results

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In both 2018 and 2019, over 5000 runners were disqualified from The Mexico City Marathon. It was widely reported, both here and through other media, that a major factor was the coveted medals.

From 2013 through 2018, finishers received medals spelling out M-E-X-I-C-O.

After the ‘O’ was handed out last year, the thought was that the incentive to cheat would lessen.

However, for 2019, The Marathon started a new series of medals. From 2019 to 2024, the medals will come together to form a map of the city as reported in The Economist.

The 2019 edition of The Marathon was held this past Sunday. By the time I was able to pull initial finisher data, some runners had already been disqualified. When I was able to pull complete results on Monday evening, 2000 additional runners were removed from the results.

There were less runners this year than in the recent past. For 2019 there were less than 30,000 starters, and after the disqualifications, as of Monday evening, there were 19,742 finishers (8000 fewer than in 2018).

It is not known how many of the roughly 10,000 non finishers were disqualified and how many did not finish (or did not start). I do know that the total number of disqualified is greater than 2000.

The Economist also reported that runners caught cutting the course in 2019 would be banned from participating in the future.

I messaged with a representative of Ya se cansaron – Running Team, and I asked if they felt the cheating compared to previous years. Members of this group have been vocal against this cheating.

“They continue to increase, only that this year the cheats were more careful, they hid the numbers so not to be evidenced or they broke the chips, so as not to leave passage in the marks of every 5 kilometers.”

With the threat of bans, if runners don’t register at the checkpoints, and aren’t tagged in photos, they won’t likely be caught. They would simply register as DNS (Did not Start), but still would be able to collect their medal.

Not all runners were as cautious. As in past years, runners were pictured on the subway, and on the side of the course, waiting to jump in.

With thousands of course cutters, this cheating is not without consequence. Many of these cutters are finishing with very fast times – sub 3 hours and faster. These runners adversely affect the runners that are legitimately competing.

The Economist reported that in the past the subways have been clogged “It is also because cheating marathoners have been known to hop on for a quick detour to the finish line”

To their credit, Mexico City has been quick to disqualify these runners, and the bans should have an effect beginning in 2020. The runners that have “broken their chips” are unlikely to be caught, but at least they will not appear in the results.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. What if they gave away medals at the expo, before the race? Then all those people wouldn’t even have to show up on race day. What if they did away with the medal entirely? What if the medal were freely available for a separate charge? Is it the medal that causes the cheating, or the party atmosphere, or what? If it’s the party, perhaps they could include a 10k or half marathon to accommodate people who aren’t capable of a marathon?

    • It must be a combination of the medal and the social media fame. “Look friends I ran a marathon X number of years!” If there was some sort of 10k or half that had a sort of theme medal as well, that could bring people to actually doing the work and getting healthier from running.

    • I like your ideas. I think getting rid of medals would help some in reducing the number of blatant cheaters, but I don’t think race organizers would do it because it’d reduce revenue. I think even a lot of honest runners want that symbol of achievement and would choose races with medals over those without.

      Changing the topic slightly—and slightly tongue-in-cheek—I wonder how many in the running community would agree to get rid of medals for environmental reasons. One medal = how many plastic straws in terms of environmental impact? And there must be, what, at least a million medals handed out in the US alone? I don’t know what appreciable difference it’d make, but isn’t the saying, “Every little bit helps”?

      So if there were a poll/vote, I’d definitely vote to get rid of medals.

      • I agree! I appreciate the art of the medal until I get home from the race and put it on a hanger in the closet. Maybe wear it once more at the running club banquet. Don’t know what my kids will do with them, if they stay with me until I die.

      • I think that the medals will eventually cause more harm to the the environment than the paper cups used during a race.

        In discussing with other runners, it seems people would rather keep having their #MedalMondays and something physical to help them keep count of their achievements. Like politicians, people rather “like” good sounding ideas rather actual actions that have real impact.

        In the end the finisher’s medal is the same for the everyone that crosses the finish line regardless if they ran the entire course, bought the bid from someone else, or banditted the race.

    • Medals are to be achieved, that’s the point. Otherwise, let’s just sell them on Amazon or eBay, so anyone can get them. This was my first marathon, and will always have this particular medal/jersey as my favorite.

    • Seems part of the big problem here is making a series where you have to get them all. Running 6 years in a row to earn MEXICO ain’t no joke….which I guess is the point. But it sure does inspire the cheaters.

      But they haven’t learned that lesson, so here we go again.

      • BTW, seems to be a thriving market for medals on Ebay. I surmised there might be MEXICO sets going for big money but didn’t find any.

        e.g. a 2019 Big Sur medal with leather strap is asking $70.00, but a 2017 (which I ran) without the leather is only asking $20.00. WHo wants a medal they didn’t earn? Apparently lots of people.

        • Asking and selling for are 2 different things though. You can ask whatever you want but what do they sell at? Hang on…heading over to see 🙂

          Doesn’t look like they actually sell so apparently no one wants them. However, the RunDisney race medals do sell, I’m sure to race collectors. I know a couple people who tossed their race medals early on and are sorry and they look for them on ebay to get it back. In that case they ran the race so don’t have a problem with that.

  2. Add five bucks to the registration fee and have the medals mailed after the results can be somewhat certified. As long as the cheaters are getting the medals, this will continue.

  3. Derek’s back! That’s the big news.

    There’s gotta be something here we’re not getting. Like, what are the cultural reasons behind mass cheating? Maybe they just see it as a fun day out with their friends? Maybe they aren’t thinking about cheating per se? I’m not trying to excuse anyone, I just think it’d be interesting to here from the culprits themselves.

  4. Also– the woman who cheated above can’t even be a runner if she thought those times would pass.

  5. My thought is to require the medals to be mailed out after time confirmation. Something that would cause your result to be flagged if you did not go through all the checkpoints or had a crazy pace variance (proof submitted via GPS watch if something is fishy and you did run it all/ got hurt and slowed down a ton). Any runner has a GPS watch or app on their phone if they are running a marathon. No full result, no medal for you. Obviously this would suck to not get your medal on race day, and would be a ton of work but it would cut down on the cheating. This could also be done at the race as well but would require standing in some sort of line right after running a marathon which would also suck, but the medal would be yours that day IF YOU EARNED IT.

  6. @Vince – it’s got to be the medals. And I get why the organizers do the medal series’, the incentive to come back and do the race every year is really high if you do it the first year of a medal series. That said, the incentive to cheat is equally high. I like the suggestion of giving the medal away at packet pickup. The people who have no interest in actually running the race get their little trinket, leaving the runners to their race without unfair competition.

  7. They should scan numbers after the finish line and check if they run all the course in order to receive a medal. Some marathons do that. Cheaters shall not be allowed to register to future Mexico City marathons.

  8. I was looking through the comments on the Facebook page of the “Ya se cansaron – Running Team.” There’s a picture of (roughly) 250 pound teddy bear shaped guy with a 3:40 finish. One of the (translated) comments says “That tamale boat doesn’t go faster than 10km / hr.”

  9. They should give them an alternate way to get the medal. 26.2 days of service, random acts of kindness, fundraising, creativity, or even a relay. Much easier to redirect the energy than to try to stop it.

    Glad you’re back Derek.

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