Throughout the history of sport, and running is not excluded, stories are abound of people who have decided that nefarious and dishonest means will be employed to try to steal the glory that other earn through hard work, determination, and effort. We have a name for these individuals – “cheats”.
As far back as the first modern Olympic marathon, held in Greece in 1896, a local postal worker from the village of Marusi – Spiridon Louis, – finished first. However there is extensive evidence to suggest that he cheated. It is alledged that he hitched a ride for a significant part of the course from the mounted soldier who rode beside him! Since that day the world of competitive running has been littered with many, many examples of people who feel that it is somehow acceptable to run (often significantly) less than the allotted distance.
Arguably one of the most famous of these is Rosie Ruiz, who on April 21,1980 appeared to win the Boston Marathon in an unbelievable 2hrs 31 mins 56 secs. This made her the fastest female time in Boston Marathon history as well as the third-fastest female time ever recorded in any marathon This was made all the more incredible by the fact that she was completely unknown before the race. Two witnesses subsequently reported seeing her burst out of the crowd half a mile from the finsh line. She was stripped of her victory 7 days later.
In Oct 2011, Rob Sloan 31, a member of Sunderland Harriers for only a few months, came third in the Kielder Marathon.When questions were raised by the runner who came “fourth” it transpired that Sloan became tired at the 20-mile point and hopped on the free spectators bus.Just before the end of the race he disembarked and emerged from a wooded section of the course before rejoining the race and picking up the bronze medal.
Tabatha Hamilton, a 31-year-old from Trenton, America, won the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon near the Tennessee/Georgia state line in Nov 2014 . But when race officials took a closer look at her race the next day, something appeared to be amiss. Hamilton’s winning time of 2 hrs 55 mins 39 secs is a very good time for a recreational runner. The problem emerged when officials, examining her progress through the course through periodic timing mats, discovered that she’d crossed the half-marathon mark at 2 hrs 6 secs, meaning she’d run the second half of the race—13.1 miles—in 55 minutes. The world record for the half marathon……………… is 58 minutes and 23 seconds!
So why cheat in the first place? The reasons are multi faceted. One being that we now live in a society where fame, along with any associated fortune, is the only end goal for many people. Not the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing that you have strived and worked hard (often damn hard) for your achievements. In running that can be translated to the ability to claim to friends, family or work colleagues that you achieved something that you actually didn’t do. The sad reality is that the people who cheat often just don’t want to put in the work, do the best they can, and accept the outcome – whatever that may be.
Is there something askew or out of the ordinary in the DNA or psychological makeup of people who behave dishonestly? Sadly, some runners become so obsessed with winning, that they are prepared and willing to commit the ultimate act of cheating in order to so. Psychologists see cheating as a natural extensions of contemporary human behaviour. If people are willing to cheat on their spouses, with their tax returns and in exams, then why not cheat when running a marathon?
Alternately, some runners display deep-rooted aberrant behaviour: a pathological compulsion to cheat the system. Social scientists compare such behaviour to shoplifting: We have all read about people engaged in retail theft who can easily afford to pay for the goods they’ve stolen! Others are misguided individuals who are driven to cheating by the sheer excitement of the act. Some, say experts, may simply be seeking the love and approval of others, or may have their sense of self-worth so damaged that only by winning can bring temporary relief.
These are but some of the numerous examples of running cheats that can readily be found with a quick scour of the internet. I don’t wish for anyone to think that I am accussing the majority of runners of being inclined to take short cuts, to lie, or steal anothers glory. I’m not. I hand on heart believe that the highest majority of runners ascribe to working hard and in order to gain a real sense of achievment from their effort – iregardless of the result. However, cheats unfortunately do exsist on the other side of the same coin.
For me, running has unearthed the discovery of some immense wonderful truths – that you get out what you put in, and that honesty and integrity are paramound. It is of no concern to me whether people know, or even care about, what time I managed to run or what position I came. For me the real prize is found in the enjoyment of the journey.