Let me say first that my thoughts and prayers are with all those in Mexico City following the earthquake there. While this post is about their marathon, I know that there is a lot more in life more serious than races and this earthquake is certainly one of them.
This story has been covered quite a bit in the last couple of weeks and it is one that just leaves me shaking my head. The Mexico City Marathon, a race with almost 30,000 finishers this year, saw a huge amount of their runners as cutting timing mats. The number of runners disqualified was a staggering 5,800!
Mexico City Marathon Disqualified Over 5,800 Runners For Cheating
Apparently, there are 8 timing mats at the Mexico City Marathon. It is not uncommon for runners in a marathon to miss a timing mat during the race. Sometimes the mats do not completely cover the road or there is just some other explanation for why a mat may not register a runner.
Was It A Timing Issue?
The timing units for these races have had to get better over the years as some of them had serious malfunctions that cost runners their times that may have otherwise qualified them for certain races and even made them miss out on prizes for their finish positions. As a result, the timing companies have gotten better and, from what I understand, the company for the Mexico City Marathon had mats that actually did cover the entire width of the road. But, this does not mean that the timing system was without error.
So, what happened? It is pretty inconceivable that this many runners would willingly cheat. There are many times at marathons that it is so packed and people are so focused on their own running/music/effort/whatever that they just follow the crowd. If the front part of a crowd went the wrong way, it would be easy to understand that there would be a pack that would follow. But I cannot imagine that many runners would go in packs off course and there would be no one to steer them back.
Every marathon, especially major ones like this, have road marshalls set up at intersections to keep drivers away and also to help direct runners. Whenever there are confusing splits or portions where the course is alongside part of the course that is a further mile marker, there are always signs and volunteers to keep runners where they should be.
Flagrant Cheating To Some Degree
There have been reports that some runners were spotted actually hopping a train! Others were seen cutting through the course and jumping in alongside other runners.
There were apparently almost 300 runners that missed every single one of the 8 timing mats! While that could be an issue with their chip, those runners did have times recorded at the finish line so it is pretty obvious they cheated.
How Many Really Cheated?
There is a very cool website run by a numbers-loving race enthusiast named Derek Murphy. His website is called Marathon Investigations and if you are a race cheater, he will likely catch you! He pours through race results and photos to find race cheaters. He was the one that initially reported on this.
He also said that there had been 4,600 runners within 1.5 seconds of the gun time (chip time is the actual time a runner finishes the race and that time could be off by dozens of minutes or more from gun time due to the size of the field and how far back runners start). That is not possible to have that many runners crossing the starting line in that much time.
Almost 1,300 runners that were disqualified had actually “qualified” for Boston and had that time revoked. If there was a technical error that caused them to lose out on their qualifying race, that is a real shame. If they actually did cheat, that is also a real shame.
A Personal Word on Cheating
I am against cheating at all and it always surprised me when I hear of people cheating in a marathon. Except for the very few at the front of the pack, the hundreds of thousands of us who run marathons are doing it to compete against ourselves. It is something that we do to prove something to ourselves or to try and beat a previous time.
For me, I would never feel good about a time where I had cheated. So what if you get to tell friends and family that you ran a 3:0X:00 time when you normally run 3:30s in a marathon. They will likely say “oh, that’s nice” and not even really comprehend the effort and speed that it took to do that. The only person that will really care would be you, the runner. If you cheated for that time, it will do absolutely nothing for you.
I once lost out on a 2nd place prize in my category at a race because someone cheated and wore another person’s bib. I had lost to that person by 2 seconds and looked them up after to see who it was. Imagine my surprise when the name was of a person I knew of and I knew that was not him! I informed the race director and ended up getting my 2nd place prize in the end.
If it is true that almost 6,000 runners cheated at this race, that is appalling and I hope that the Mexico City Marathon takes serious steps in the future to be able to catch this on their own. Imagine losing out on a top 3 in a category because of one of these cheaters.
But, if this was a timing error, then I would think the Mexico City Marathon better start planning now what they will do to win the confidence of runners for next year.
Did you run this year’s Mexico City Marathon? Have anything to share about what may have happened?
Featured image courtesy of Ostill | Shutterstock