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One might expect that as road racing became more popular, so would road race cheating. Detection systems, however, have become more sophisticated. Electronic timing and tracking of runners is used in most major races, and photo coverage of the course is widespread. Add to these the advent of amateur cheating detectives and it’s difficult to get away with cutting a course or banditing a race.
But if you’re going to cheat, it’s best to stay out of Greece. While most race organizers concentrate on runners who cheat to get to the front of the pack, officials at the Athens Authentic Marathon scrutinize everyone.
Indicatively, we have a runner who covered the 42-odd kilometers in 4 hours and 27 minutes who appears to have run the first half of the race in 31 minutes. At least three participants seem to have started the race at the 30th kilometer, clocking in a final time at the stadium of around 3 hours. In one of the most confusing cases, a professional doctor and amateur runner is spotted at every checkpoint and ended with a time of under 3 hours and 30 minutes, but is seen to have an irregular – and suspicious – pace at different points of the race: He runs the first 15 kilometers in 1 hour and 20 minutes and then covers the next 20 kilometers, an uphill slog, in just 1 hour and 18 minutes. His name is no longer on the official record, though his Facebook page is full of congratulatory messages from his friends and he writes that he is not pleased with his performance, vowing to do better next time.
They even went the extra mile, so to speak, and put a tail on a suspected cheater:
Dousis remembers a peculiar case from a few years ago, in the 10,000-meter race that takes place in parallel to the Authentic Marathon. It concerned a 60-year-old amateur with a decent record of times who appeared to cover the toughest uphill leg of the race in just over 3 minutes per kilometer. His final time was not recorded and the runner lodged a complaint.
“When you can prove that you can run uphill faster than [Kenyan pro] Eliud Kiptanui, then I’ll admit I made a mistake,” Dousis recalls telling the 60-year-old.
When he saw that the same runner put down his name the following year, Dousis decided to take more drastic measures and assigned an athlete to follow him over the entire course to ensure the 60-year-old was not cutting corners. On the day of the race, however, the man never showed up at the starting line.
It makes me wonder if there is money to be made in the up-and-coming field of “marathon shadow.”
It’s that time of year again for the London Pantomime Horse Race and this year’s contestants have been training hard.