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Almost immediately following the Chicago Marathon, I began to receive emails about runners with suspicious splits. In particular I received reports of suspicious splits between 35k and 40k. Looking at the map, it is easy to see how runners could cut over 2 miles off the course by skipping the right turn on Michigan Avenue, and instead, turn left on Indiana Avenue.
How Many Runners Cut the Course at This Point?
7 Runners that obviously cut the course at Michigan Avenue were disqualified. These runners finished between 2:39:56 and 5:04:58. They logged splits between 3:32 per mile to 5:53 per mile.
Unfortunately this is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve identified an additional 40 runners that, in my opinion, very clearly cut this section of the course.
In total, at least 47 runners cut this portion of the course. In all likelihood, the # is higher. I only included those runners where I felt there was no doubt.
There are a couple runners that I felt were worth additional analysis
Runners of Note
Bib # 6546 -3:36:43 (BQ Time) – 40k pace 6:40 per mile
Bryan ran in The 2022 Boston Marathon, finishing in a time of 3:43:26. He was a bit over the time he needed to re-qualify for Boston. His Chicago time would qualify him for The 2023 Boston Marathon. He has not been disqualified.
Bib # 23490 – 3:57:55 – 40k pace 4:08 per mile
Ericka did not qualify for Boston, but was clearly claiming her Chicago result was legitimate on social media. She posted a manual Strava entry claiming a 10 minute PR.
Additionally, she missed the 30k split during a previous P.R. at The 2021 Mo Cowbell Marathon. Probably not enough by itself to warrant a DQ, but a little more suspicious given her disqualification at Chicago. Her pace didn’t change noticeably on the section with the missed split, but she did improve her placement from `80th place to 103rd place during the section where she missed the split.
After her Mo’ Cowbell race, she posted on Facebook:
Given the opportunity, there are some runners that will take shortcuts. Some of the runners in Chicago seemed to be running strong races, but threw it away for a PR, or a Boston Qualifying time. Others were struggling, and likely just wanted their race to be over – maybe they did not have ill intentions, but they never should have crossed the finish line once they cut the course short. They certainly should not have taken medals, or proclaimed their victories on social media as some of these runners did.
I will forward this to Chicago, and keep an eye on the results for future disqualifications, particularly when Boston Qualifying times were “earned”.
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I would probably give 25166 the benefit of the doubt. He was at that pace for segments earlier in the race. Had a couple of slower 5ks then back up to pace. I have had crazy splits that were decent at the beginning. worked through leg cramps in the middle and gutted out a decent segment at the end.
I appreciate you trying to give benefit of the doubt, but there’s none to give here. The dude was running solid through 25k before the wheels clearly came off, which is quite common in marathons. Once the wheels come off that late in a marathon, there’s no putting them back on. You can clearly see he’s slowing down more and more with each 5k, then miraculously has his best 5k of the race (20 second/mile faster than his next best 5k) right at the controversial section, before falling off a cliff again right after 40k. I’m sorry, you don’t struggle with gradual cramps for ~10k then shake them out for EXACTLY 5k to run faster than you had the entire race (between 35-40k) before falling off a cliff EXACTLY after 40k. No way that happened.
No one goes from 9 min pace for most of the early legs, drops down to 12 min pace and then cranks out their fastest 5k split at 8:36 at the end unless they were purposely sand bagging during that middle stretch. When you gutted out your decent segment at the end, was it your fasted 5k split by a wide margin? For most mortals, when they gutted it out at the end, it means that they were able to get back to race pace +- a few seconds, not by 30 seconds per mile for the last 30k. And, definitely not dropping 3 minutes per mile from the 5-8 k leg prior to that.
I agree it makes little sense, but 8:20/8:36 is not that fast. For those of us with very little marathon experience (me!), my splits can look a little like this. It’s mental errors of going out slower than necessary and mentally slowing myself down to “conserve energy.” If there were portapotty lines, the 12:xx could be stopped/waiting times. Then they blasted out a downhill finish? I don’t even know this course, but I could have these splits. An 8:xx is just not that fast. I’m just saying the likelihood of cheating is lower for a couple of these. They still probably cheated.
The Chicago marathon course is described on FindMyMarathon as “pancake flat”. It has a max elevation of 612′ and a min elevation of 580′. The elevation profile shows a very small downhill/uphill at the 13.1 mile mark, and a very small uphill at the 22.5 mile mark. Otherwise, the elevation profile is a flat line. There is no downhill finish in this race. Any runners who had fast splits from 35k to 40k would have kept up that same fast pace the last 2.2k to the finish after 40k.
A lot of us have been in that position – where you start off too fast and pick up a piano, but then you start feeling better and get rolling again. You get within a couple miles of the finish and you just want to get done so that’s not a place your pace slows back down.
I have, and did in my last marathon. I was struggling with GI issues throughout the marathon and had a very difficult time stringing together a continuous mile although had an early respectable average. Since I wasn’t having my best race, at one point I slowed down to run / walk with a friend because I knew my race wasn’t going to yield a PR. Passing my wife I stopped for a kiss and a quick chat adding to my time and overall average that I cared nothing about. Later in the race around mile 21 and after a few vomits, I was able to get my stomach settled and finished out the race running sub 8 minute miles and more than 1:30 below my average time. I too would give the benefit of the doubt to this runner not knowing what may have or not happened in that race. Don’t be so quick to judge based on 1 data point.
Have you ever had to stop and use the porta potty during a race? This person was hitting around 9 min miles and under most of the race. Perhaps they were always running that pace, stopped at the 30k mark, took a crap and a 4 minute delay, started running again and got a little further along, needed to crap again….another 4 minute break. After hitting the jon, they felt better and went for it trying to make up some time feeling better. Ever happen to you in a race? I know lots of people who needed to make a potty break for a 4+ hour race. Very logical explanation
Seems possible for 17706 as well. I wonder if there were portapotties or uphill sections during their 2 splits just prior to the 40K? I’m completely unfamiliar with the Chicago course but both of those runners had decent early splits, 2 slow, then back to a very average over-8:00 pace. They don’t look all that suspicious to me. I’m almost exactly their speed (with very little full marathon experience) and I’ve had some wonky splits during my races! I’d love to say I am consistent and negative split through my races, but that is certainly not the case.
I appreciate what you’re doing. I just ran a qualifying time for Boston 2024 by only 24 seconds. Every cheater that we keep out helps! 🤞
I don’t get it. What’s the point? Are people really that desperate for attention? Most of these finishing times are even impressive. Sad.
I don’t get it either. I’m especially mystified by people like Ericka who clearly cut the course and then literally wrote on social media that “there are no shortcuts”. I’ve run two marathons and am running my third in January. Wheels came off on the last 4 miles for both marathons and gutting those out were the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. But I came away with the knowledge that I actually ran 26.2 miles in both. How shameful and embarrassing must it be for you to cut the course and claim that you ran the full amount. I just don’t understand – YOU know you didn’t run a marathon, you ran 24 miles. Mystifying.
Omg, chicago was amazing, the temperature was perfect, but it was hard.
I loved every minute, I figured I could always walk if I got tired. Omg never, ever crossed my mind to skipped 5km off to get a better time. I’m proud to say that I qualify for chicago, at the chicago marathon.
You mentioned that they were “skipping the right turn on Michigan Avenue, and instead, turn left on Indiana Avenue.” From the detail it appears that they just turned left on Michigan Ave at that spot. The course ran on Indiana Avenue for a bit on the return between 35th and 31st streets. Indiana is a street east of Michigan so at 26th they would have had to cut across the return up on Michigan and gone outside of the course completely to get to Indiana Avenue.
What does PND stand for on their race result?
That out-n-back segment was the first in at least Chicago marathons. With the grid layout of Chicago streets, it was uncalled for, and a morale-killer to see that nonsense in the twenty-something miles. And now there’s yet another reason it was a bad idea.
Oops, I meant “in at least 6 Chicago marathons.”
Correction: I meant “in at least 6 Chicago marathons.”
Yea, well, I bet I’m cuter than you, Derek!
Cheating is never cute.
If you’re the actual person that ran this race, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Unless I’m missing something, the finish pace calcs for 6641 and 26877 seem to be off. 26877 doesn’t seem like an obvious cutter when corrected. 8:20 average vs 7:05 40k is within the realm of possibilities.
It’s the pace for the last split – not total pace. That was the fastest split of the entire race for 26877. They were gradually slowing down, and wasn’t within a minute of that pace for the entire race.
Any thoughts on 56174’s pace from 20k to 35k? I’ve run consistent splits before, but 15:08 on the dot for that many splits on top of the 40k cut seems sketch
Why don’t you get a real job? How does this affect your life?
Seems to me that tou’re just a bitter jealous wannabe runner who never could put it together. If they cheat or not is none of your business. It is the race’s job. You are not the police or anybody to accuse others even if they are guilty.
Sham on you.
I have no idea as to the authors motivation to run this site and look at the results. I do know that tons of runners REALLY want to qualify for Boston or one of the other world majors. Those who do it honestly lose out when someone cheats and earns a time that they actually did not run. Races have not interest in doing this. It would require someone to look at the results and compare the splits and would cost the races money. Races run on a tight budget and there is usually not extra money floating around to pay someone with the analytics skills to root out cheaters. Arguably races could pay a 3rd party to do this but once again they likely do not care to do so as it takes money out of their pockets. To your knowledge is the author of this site misrepresenting facts or doing this maliciously to discredit honest runners? If not are you saying you have no issues with racers cheating? If so you would be in the incredibly vast minority of runners at the starting line of a marthon.
Are you on the bib list above or why are you so sour? It’s important to catch cheaters because they unethically oust people from Boston Marathon and other Marathons where it’s hard to get in.
You must be new here. Derek is a prolific runner. This is only a few of his results: https://ultrarunning.com/calendar/runner/show?first_name=Derek&last_name=Murphy&runner_id=23860 And his post from July describing the 300+ mile race he completed: https://www.marathoninvestigation.com/2022/07/last-annual-heart-of-the-south.html
Have you accomplished even close to what he has?
So yeah, honest race results mean a lot to him. And clearly race directors reach out to him for help, so it’s not like he’s running this site just to be a meanie.
Derek is good at what he does. It is, at times, a job for Derek as some races hire him to keep their results legitimate. Keeping results honest is good because 1) honesty is the best policy and 2) it helps legitimate Boston Qualifiers keep their spot instead of losing one of the limited spots to a cheater.
Keep up the good work, Derek!
I found a cheater!!!!
What Derek does is great. Imagine not getting your BQ by one because someone cheated their way in.
He is exposing people who cheat in marathons, something that isn’t a high priority for law enforcement and something race organizers don’t always have the resources to handle. Nobody is forcing you to look at this website, nor did you have to take the time to post on it. Look elsewhere on the web if you don’t want to see this. How does this affect your life?
While people cheating may not necessarily be this guy’s “business” he is trying to help prevent people who did not legitimately qualify to run in the prestigious Boston or Berlin marathons. It is a known fact that many people cheat in other marathons that anyone can enter in order to get a qualifying time for the Boston or Berlin marathons. Any person who cheated to get into those aforementioned marathons could be keeping out somebody who followed the rules and deserves to be there.
Posting hateful comments is not going to put an end to this website either, in fact you are only giving him extra attention and making him want to do this website that much more.
Another proponent of America’s burgeoning cheating culture. With people like you defending the right to cheat, we will soon be another 3rd world country where everything is for sale and nothing is real.
He’s doing it because there are tens of thousands of people running marathons like Chicago to qualify for Boston. Every single cheating course cutter removes someone from qualifying that actually ran the full marathon distance. And you can see by how the Chicago Marathon race director team reacted – out of those 40 questionable times it’s crystal clear that on 36 of them that they cut the course. So Derek applies pressure and hopefully those people are DQ’ed.
Imagine missing the mark on a monumental race like Boston because someone cheated their way ahead of you. So yes, this does affect you and. And if it doesn’t bother you, then you are probably one of the jerks that cheats.
You guys see a mat checkpoint at 37.5k. I was wondering why during the run but Chicago Marathon probably has the time for everyone and can easily see who didn’t cross that checkpoint. It’s just not post publicly.
Then don’t cheat…or at the Least don’t brag about it
You get what you deserve
Of course it is not an excuse, but I think this change in the course has “helped” the cheaters/ shortcutters… In the previous course this would not be so easy to be done.
Insane. I worked my butt off to qualify for Boston and to see that people cheat to get into Boston (and other races) or simply just to show off a time they do not deserve…..it’s enraging. I hammered the last few miles of Chicago with a consistent negative split. But even then that was maybe 40 seconds difference from the start of the race. These people cheated there is no doubt in my mind. I hope they’re banned from Chicago and all other majors, at a minimum.
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