Runner Disqualified after 2nd Place Finish – Admits to Repeated Cheating

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Emily Clark was the 2nd place female finisher of The PeaceHealth Apple Tree Half Marathon in Vancouver WA on September 15th. She was later disqualified. WHY Racing has provided me with a public statement regarding this situation, which they have asked me to share.

The race decided to make this statement publicly because of Emily’s placement in the race and because disqualifications from prior races did not deter this behavior.

Public Statement from WHY Racing Events:

On Sunday September 15th, Emily was registered to race our Half Marathon event and she crossed the finish line as the 2nd place overall woman. The results were contested by some of the other leaders who claim Emily was not part of the leading group so we initiated an investigation. We have multiple witnesses and have now confirmed that Emily rode her bike to cross over the furthest timing mat and then disposed of her bike at some point to be able to run across the finish line in second place. Our course photographers also capture athletes in the order of their placement on course and she is not in the photos running where she should be providing further evidence. We also confirmed that she has been disqualified due to suspicious results at other events including the Eugene Marathon and Chicago Marathon.

We disqualified Emily’s results and updated the standings to indicate the correct order of overall female athletes as follows:


1st Overall – Liz Anjos, Age 34, Overall time 1:24:50 (6:29 pace) NEW COURSE RECORD

2nd Overall – Cheyenne Watts, Age 24, Overall time 1:30:36 (6:55 pace)

3rd Overall – Gabriela Gadeva, Age 33, Overall time 1:35:15 (7:16  pace)

Masters – Allison Waite, Age 42, Overall time 1:47:00  (8:10 pace)

Once presented with the evidence, Emily confessed and prepared a public statement and apology and provided permission for us to post. In her confession letter below, she reports that this has happened at multiple events for many years. In the letter, she explains how and why she has cheated.

As a race organization, we have an obligation to protect the integrity of results and our athletes who complete the race fairly. She has a pattern of doing this and it has affected others’ podium placements. It is clear that past disqualifications have not prevented her from continuing this behavior. We also have an obligation to other races and race directors to assure she doesn’t continue to do this at their upcoming race and negatively affect the results of their athletes who finish the race fairly.

We have compassion for Emily and are saddened that she has felt the need to do these things. Our hope is that the running community in the Portland area embrace and befriend Emily and pour love and compassion towards her and show her that she can feel that sense of belonging, validation and self-worth without having to lie and cheat to get it. The running community is extremely welcoming…whether you are first or last or somewhere in between…you can find your place.

Let’s not shun Emily but instead understand what may cause someone to do this. Emily is not alone in her actions – It happens more often than we would want to believe. Emily’s story can provide some insight into the mindset of someone who justifies cheating to gain a sense of accomplishment. Our hope is that good comes of this and by finally taking responsibility for her actions, Emily has the chance to heal and come out stronger on the other side. I am personally proud of Emily that she made the decision to confess and apologize. That alone takes a huge amount of strength and courage. When she is ready, she will be welcomed back at a WHY Racing Event and we will celebrate her authentic accomplishment.


Sherri McMillan and WHY Racing Events

Prior to Sherri reaching out to me I was aware of Emily’s recent disqualification after finishing in 2:52 at The Eugene Marathon and was aware that there were some questions regarding other results.

Sherri had asked that I contact Emily. After I contacted Emily, she authorized that her below statement be shared on Marathon Investigation and by WHY Racing Events.

Public Statement from Emily Clark:

To all the members of the running community near and far,

Over the years, I’ve made friends and had incredible experiences as a member of this community. And I’ve also been dishonest and deceitful by cheating in numerous races. I’ve chosen to come clean about it because the truth eventually catches up with you, no matter what. 

In 2013, I made two cuts in the course in the Chicago marathon. My anxiety disorder wasn’t being treated at the time because I had just moved across the country and I had a panic attack related to being overstimulated by the runners and the noise and the crowds and just wanted it all to be over. Instead of seeking help at an aid station, I cut the course and pretended like everything was fine. I did not deserve to cross the finish line that day nor a week later when the same anxiety showed up as I was beginning the Baystate marathon and I completed one rather than two loops for the race and left the race without communicating that to the timers, thus skewing the results. 

In May 2014, I made similar choices at the Walter Child’s Memorial Run. Overwhelmed and scared running nearly alone in a foreign place, I found a shorter way back to the start/finish area, waited long enough so as to try and go unnoticed as I made my way across and accepted an award that, again, I didn’t deserve and had the exact same experience at the 2018 Swamp Rabbit Marathon. 

This spring, after poor training due to unrelenting shin splints, I did it again at the Eugene marathon by running a short distance at the beginning before returning to my hotel room, watching a section of the half marathon, then jumping back into the last few miles of the race in order to be in the finishers area when my friend who was also running would finish. As in all the times before, I had other options but I chose to cheat because I was ashamed that I couldn’t do it pretending felt easier than the truth.

Finally, this past weekend, I biked the majority of the course at the AppleTree half marathon. I was planning to run until the weather became cold and rainy but I still wanted to participate in the event I had been planning on because running had become a way that I was pushing back against weight stigma and somehow convinced myself that cheating my way through it would feel the same as honestly competing. 

Toward the beginning of my time in distance running, anxiety attacks during races were the cause for my cheating and the shame that went along with it was a main reason for not coming clean about it in the moment or at any time before now. Since then, though I can run fast, it is always surprising to people because, while I’m not fat, I’m not as thin as people expect runners to be and so I’ve received a significant amount of validation and placed a lot of my self-worth in running. Validation and worthiness are two things I don’t experience a lot in my day-to-day life and my deep need to feel those things from people led me to cheat this spring and fall rather than bow-out of a race I was too injured to participate in and another race when the weather was horrible. In the earlier situations, I didn’t really realize it then but I now know I had better options than the choices I made and I know that those choices hurt a lot of people, and for that, I am deeply sorry. And in the more recent situations, I let my need for validation and feelings of worthiness outweigh the value of my honesty, which, again, deeply hurt other members of this sport and stole from them opportunities to be celebrated that they deserved. 

It is my intent to, with the help of my therapist and my coach, work to disentangle my self-worth from running and to find ways I can feel validated more often but only in truthful circumstances. I vow to be an honest athlete from now on and I sincerely apologize to all those directly and indirectly hurt by my dishonesty over the years.

I am in the process to reaching out to the races mentioned in Emily’s statement – in many cases awards were affected. I also am verifying and reaching out to some additional races to validate her other results.

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55 COMMENTS

  1. The upside is admitting she cheated; a fact easy corroborated by GPS and course photos. The downside is cheating robs the true winner of their moment on the podium. She took for herself their validation, adulation, and the experiences victory offers. This is irreplaceable. I hope she gets the help she needs. In the meantime, she should be banned from any legitimate marathon.

  2. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about her statement, but I do appreciate the grace the RD is giving her in asking the community to be supportive and forgiving.

  3. It sounds like she is still full of excuses for herself, honestly.

    If anything, her injuries would have given her qa reason not to race, and not be shamed for it. Instead, she chose to aim for podium times.

    This took significantly more stress and effort than simply not running; the anxiety excuse makes less than no sense.

    • Totally agree. Especially the last excuse. Carefully planning her bike yet saying she was planning on running the whole course. Anxiety first, then blaming it on the rain.

    • I agree. I am hesitant to say much else because everyone handles things differently, BUT anxiety is not an excuse to rob others of their validation and cheat multiple times. If she really needs help, I hope she gets it.

  4. First it’s due to anxiety, then mixed in other reasons. Excuses. Should just say I chose to cheat, it was wrong Im sorry.

    • Yes, I agree. But the “why” is just as important. To us, it comes off as excuses for her poor behavior, but regardless, it’s her conscience that saw those excuses as being acceptable and apparently “easier” than bowing out. The “why” is more important to her wiht working through her personal troubles w/ her therapist and family/friends.

      Also, any fast runner knows, the cool, rainy weather we have been having these last 5 weekends have been amazing! Fast runners do better in cooler, cloudy conditions; if she was one, she’d know this.

      • I completely agree Larissa. I don’t look at her statement as “excuses”…but instead I try to understand the catalyst behind how she made these poor decisions.

        I think it is great that she has owned up to it instead of trying to constantly deny like many others in her situation. I hope “coming clean” will lift some weight off her shoulders and reduce anxiety. I think most people in the running community would agree with us and welcome her back with open arms.

  5. I can’t condone her cheating over multiple races and years, but I am impressed that she admitted it instead of trying to deny it like so many others have done.

  6. OK. I’m as compassionate as anyone so I will assume this is all genuine (It’s possible that this is all a cover my butt reaction after getting caught but let’s assume it’s legitimate): She needs help and support from her family, friends and especially her therapist (the coach has NO place in this.) Frankly, racing must be out of the equation from now on and she shouldn’t ever ask to be in a race again Racing is over. Frankly, I believe anyone that cheats over and over again seemingly without remorse for over 7 years is in a compromised mental state whatever their condition may be). Nevertheless, she should and can run for health (physically and mentally) reasons and maybe even volunteer at races to give back something to a sport that she’s taken quite a bit from. So, she must be banned BUT her support team can help her find a proper non-racing outlet so she can live as normal and productive life as possible.

  7. Interesting that she was planning on running the half marathon yet had her bike setup in such a way that she could cheat. I hope she is being truly honest on her anxiety issues and seeking help for it.

  8. Although I share the skepticism of others, I’m not in a position to assess the merits of her rationale. Rather than ban her from future events, I would require her to run with an escort, such as a pace group, and if she drops the group she’s out, or alternatively, if she drops back from the pace group, it will be established that her time is slower than that group. If she does supposedly earn a podium finish, it could be frozen until verified (or she could be declared ineligible from the outset for awards).

  9. I suffer from anxiety (with panic attacks) and agoraphobia. Running is a way for me to try to overcome my fears. As you can probably guess, a big race day is a stressful time for someone with agoraphobia!!

    Her justification regarding her anxiety is basically a non-sequitur. Anxiety makes you want to leave, not to cheat. She didn’t cheat due to anxiety, but for the same reason as all the other cheaters: for the validation from others. I certainly credit her for accepting that the validation was an important part, but she’s using the anxiety excuse to dilute her personal responsibility. I hope she reflects on what happened, takes a principled stance and gets back to running races. I wish her well.

    My next race is a 10K in three weeks. I should make it (and I’m really looking forward to the challenge), but I might not. Either way I won’t cheat.

    • Anxiety can come in many forms and have many drivers. I’ve known someone with extreme self esteem and body image issues who was always believing that everyone around her was inwardly judging, criticizing, and sneering at her for being too fat (she wasn’t fat). She wasn’t afraid of being in a crowd so much as feeling like she was being judged constantly and relentlessly by the crowd.

      Regardless, this woman needs help and I hope she gets it.

  10. I hope she comes to realize that she is only making her anxiety worse. Kudos to Sherri – Why Racing is an amazing organization, and when I found a course cutter on a duathlon earlier this year, it was promptly dealt with (unfortunately not before someone missed out on their rightful podium celebration, it was post race after results were out)

  11. Only she knows how sincere she is with her apology and her vow to be an honest athlete, and the only way she can prove it is by her future actions. I truly hope she gets whatever help she needs to address all the problems she must have that led her to be a meticulous, serial cheater. Maybe she can find a good runner friend who embodies the true spirit of a runner: fighting against adversity, persevering despite the pain, and training hard toward goals, and finding joy/validation within herself. It’s too bad that she so completely misunderstood an activity that could have helped her deal with her anxiety and self-image.

    Two comments on the video: 1) I might be wrong, but she does not look fit enough to be able to run the ~6:40 pace needed to finish second in the half-marathon. 2) Yet she claims that she can run fast. Perhaps that’s something else she needs a reality check on. As long as she overestimates her ability, as long as she wants people to appreciate her for being fast, she’ll be tempted to cheat to get the praise.

    • I agree with your assessment, I would have her down as a 2 hour half marathon runner which is perfectly respectable but not in contention for places.

      • This statement got me right in the heart. I am not a skinny runner, yet have 138 half and 334 full PRs. I was 1st masters in the full.

        I wish I could explain how many times people in the running community talk about my weight.

        • Your times are awesome. But she claimed to have run almost 1 min/mile faster than your impressive half time. I am a realist and I don’t think she looks the part. The truth confirms my bias: she DID cheat and did not accomplish that time at her current weight. I’m sorry this hits you hard. I have struggled with my weight and I truly do understand.

  12. So she talks about the “stigma of weight” in runners and how she wants to prove people wrong. But isn’t it actually reinforcing that idea when you cheat? Like if people think “wait that chick is too heavy to be placing second, somethings up,” and then it turns out something WAS up, isn’t that counterproductive to her goal of eliminating the stigma?

    • I get this all the time. Statements like these are hurtful. Yes, she made a bad decision, but now the running community will confirm not skinny runners can’t run fast. They’ve already been saying that.

      • I can understand why you, a 1:38 HM/3:34 FM runner, might feel bad. Those are pretty good times. Kudos to you for the training and discipline required to achieve them.

        I don’t know what you look like, what “not skinny” means, but don’t you think you might be a bit of an outlier? That against your example are many, many more examples of non-skinny runners who aren’t fast?

        I suppose much depends on what is meant by “fast,” but let’s use Emily Clark’s example. Her time was somewhere between 6:29 pace and 6:55 pace. For argument’s sake, let’s say it was 6:45. I think that definitely qualifies as fast for recreational runners for a half marathon. Your pace for your HM PR is 7:29. Again, pretty good, but there’s a big difference between 6:45 and 7:29/mile for a HM. You’ve seen the video of Emily Clark’s finish. Have you ever seen something with that level of fitness hold 6:45 pace for a half marathon? Do you think you can run 6:45 pace at the same weight? If you seriously try to get down to 6:45, I would bet that you’d lose weight even as you gain more muscle.

        I think it’s great that people of all sizes run and compete, especially those who train hard to achieve the best time possible, whether it’s a 12min/mile or 9min/mile or 6min/mile. And it’s good to celebrate their successes. But objectively speaking, don’t you think that a 6min/mile runner is going to look different than a 9:00 or even 7:30min/mile person? Just look at pictures of elite and semi-elite runners who have achieved fast times. Isn’t there something similar about how every single one of the looks? So my point is that there are solid reasons for doubting Emily Clark’s time based on her outward appearance. And it has nothing to do with hatred toward fat people or not appreciating their running achievements.

        • I may be an outlier, but it still hurts when a number (my weight) is constantly being brought up to/about me.

          I live it. It stinks that this woman has perpetuated the non skinny people could never run fast stereotype.

          Could I take 45 sec off my pace? Well I guess I have to try now for all the non skinny people out there. 👊

          • If you do train to run a 6:45/mile HM, I truly, honestly hope that you will do it. That’d be a great achievement for any recreational runner, no matter what they look like. If you do it as a non-skinny person (whatever that means), more power to you since it’s obviously more work to run fast while carrying more weight. You should feel free to let the running world know that you don’t have to look a certain way to run 6:45/mile HM. But if you end up achieving the result as a skinnier person, then it’d be nice if you could also acknowledge that.

            I don’t know who constantly brings up your weight as it relates to your running, but I would agree that it wouldn’t feel good to hear such talk. It’d be good if they could be more sensitive and not bring up a topic that obviously bothers you. Having said that, I don’t think weight is something that only non-skinny people hear. When I’m in serious training mode for a race, many people know it just by looking at me and make comments about my losing weight, my face looking more gaunt, etc. Similarly, when I’m not training for a race, they know that too and tell me that I’ve gained weight. My point is that it’s not only overweight people who hear comments about their weight. Personally, it doesn’t bother me because I know that they only make such comments because they know that I’m a runner, and I accept it as a part of being a runner. (I’m not saying that you should accept it too, but just explaining why I do.)

            I know that weight is a sensitive issue for many people and needs to be handled with caution. But I don’t think it should be controversial or hurtful to say that the laws of physics says that for long distance running someone carrying less weight would be able to run faster, that data from thousands of races suggests that someone who looks like Emily Clark would not be able to run a 6:45/mile HM.

  13. I personally struggle with the following: Whenever someone confesses to cheating, they get asked “Why did you do it?” so then they give an explanation and people (including me) say “Stop making excuses!”

    She came forward and admitted what she did only after being caught, but as Marathon Investigation has proven often, many people never come clean: even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.

    Hopefully people will follow the lead of this RD and accept her apology. The running community can be a bit of a paradox: Incredibly friendly and welcoming, but also highly competitive. I feel for those runners who were denied a finish because of this, but we can’t expect people to come clean about suspicious results if the consequence is so dire.

    • It’s very simple: come clean with genuine remorse. Nothing more, nothing less. And no excuses. We can usually tell a genuine remorseful apology from a half-excuse/half-apology. Whether it’s from a friend who apologizes for hurting us in some way or from a runner who apologies for cheating, I think almost everyone in the running community will accept a genuine remorseful apology. But no one likes to accept excuse-laden apologies. I don’t think the running community is unique in this.

        • Perhaps. But not giving a reason and simply saying “I’ve done wrong. I’ve cheated myself and other runners” is far better than giving excuses that don’t make sense or make it seem like she was a victim of circumstances.

  14. She’s lying to us and herself. This wasn’t an apology. It was a rationalization and a litany of excuses.

  15. This is the best part:

    “I did it again at the Eugene marathon by running a short distance at the beginning before returning to my hotel room, watching a section of the half marathon, then jumping back into the last few miles of the race in order to be in the finishers area when my friend who was also running would finish”

    I bet she was watching netflix instead of the Marathon

  16. There was an post from the race director on Why Racing’s Facebook site. Apparently Emily took to Instagram to say she had been “Disqualified from races because they ‘found it impossible to believe someone of my build could hold those paces'” after she had issued her apology. No sympathy should be wasted on this girl.

  17. Excuses. Think about the people who were de deprived of looking at the leader board to find they just missed the top 3. This loser did this over and over. Bullshit to blame anxiety. Please dont praise her for finally coming clean, she was caught.

  18. Excuses. Think about the people who were deprived of looking at the leader board to find they just missed the top 3. This loser did this over and over. Bullshit to blame anxiety. Please dont praise her for finally coming clean, she was caught.

  19. In the post Meza world of Marathon Investigations it’s important to show a little more empathy than in the past. So I’ll take the stance that someone willing to attach their name to a very public confession – even a hedged, mangled one – deserves due consideration.

    Let’s hope she gets the help she needs and returns to the sport. Trust but verify when she does return. In most cases (not all) even a convict gets to return to a normal life after paying their debt to society. If she is not allowed to race again how can she prove a rehabilitation?

    • I think that the level of empathy we should show one another is always the same. I would posit that we don’t need to change our standards of behavior or the meaning of being good just because of one incident. Either we live up to them or we don’t. I’m not saying that it’s not possible or desirable for some people to become more empathetic and kind than they were—and maybe that’s all you’re saying—but I don’t think there’s some new level of empathy we need to strive for because of the Meza incident.

      In the same way, I don’t think there’s a new level of honesty we need to strive for. Being honest, not lying, confessing to wrongdoing—people have always known them to be hallmarks of integrity, including Meza.

      • In a perfect world, sure. But this isn’t a perfect world. If you were around in the aftermath of the Meza death you might understand why more empathy needs to be on tap.

        There was a lot of back and forth on how to be better in posts and comments. My comment here is based off that painful, but necessary, learning process.

        • I also followed the Meza story closely and read every comment at Marathoninvestigation. I fully support individuals wanting to be more thoughtful and empathetic in their online comments; we can say that someone has done wrong without malice and with humility.

          But let me just add this: the Meza incident is not just a teachable moment about empathy, but also about honesty. We can be more empathetic, of course. But at the same time, we can and should also point out Meza’s cheating as a blight on the running community and point out his repeated lying as a blight on society. Simply becoming more empathetic is not going to change our world for the better–or at least not nearly as much as if more people acted with honesty and integrity.

          What would you rather have: people and politicians tirelessly telling us to be more tolerant and punishing people for un-PC words, or the same people and politicians having the courage to tell the truth all the time and acting 100% corruption-free?

          • Well in your final paragraph, one of those things might happen, the other won’t!

            This website was already all about honesty and integrity. Empathy less so – at least the comments.

  20. What disappointing behavior. As a psychotherapist myself, I worry about her credibility in the profession. This sounds like more than anxiety at play, and I hope she gets the help she needs. And how premeditated, too.

  21. Somehow marathon officials should start fining caught cheaters some substantial amount if caught – say $1,000. They are trespassing, putting other runners at risk for being injured, etc, etc. It’s a valid approach that I think could withstand a legal challenge.

  22. I give her b8g kudos for the apology. Explained how it started. You may call it excuses. Gave no excuses for the last marathons. I want to give her a big hug.

  23. She did again.. Chicago Marathon 2019. So what her excuse now? She should be banned for Chicago Marathon that her 2nd year doing that.

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