According to Derek Murphy of MarathonInvestigation.com reports that the second female across the finish line at the Fort Worth Marathon on November 10 has been disqualified and her result (a Boston qualifying time) erased after he figured out that she cut about four miles from her race.
Murphy does not name the runner, who finished in 3:28:42, one minute and 12 seconds under the qualifying time for a female aged 18 to 34 (not fast enough to get into the 2020 race, for which qualifiers had to be at least 1:39 faster than standard). Murphy did publish a couple of her race photos, one of which showed her walking around mile 15, as well as the detailed report she published on her Instagram account (which is no longer public).
Unfortunately, it was relatively easy to cut the course in this race, since the course is two out-and-back legs beside the city’s Trinity River, and it only records one split (at the halfway mark–splits are no longer visible in the results). Before 2018, the course was one out-and-back loop, but flooding made the course change necessary last year, and organizers kept it for 2019 because the shorter course encouraged more spectators. Murphy reports that the organizers have promised they will have more timing mats next year to discourage cheating.
Murphy was immediately suspicious when he noticed a 17-minute negative split in the results. He had a look at the runner’s results from three other half-marathons (all run this year), which showed an average pace of 8:36 per mile (about 5:21 per kilometre)–nowhere near the 7:19/mile (4:33/K) she recorded in the second half of the race.
Her race report on Instagram raised more red flags. The runner was apparently flabbergasted to discover she had run a BQ–after being photographed walking, and describing struggling and taking a bathroom break, during which she stopped her watch and “forgot” to start it again until three miles later. She also says she slowed her pace to 8:05 per mile at the 20-mile mark, and assuming she held that pace until the finish, Murphy calculated she would have had to run miles 13 through 20 at 6:38 per mile pace–yet a photo shows her walking at around mile 15. In short, none of it adds up.
The clincher was that her GPS data was on the fitness tracker Training Peaks. When Murphy uploaded it to Strava, the Flyby feature clearly showed where she turned around early in the second lap, around mile 18. (It also showed her watch was never paused.) She averaged more than 10 minutes per mile over her last eight miles.
The legit winners
Raquel Jimenez, 34, won the women’s race in 2:56:23 and was third overall. The correct second-place finisher is Andrea Bohmfalk, 35, in 3:29:52, and finishing in third place was Darby Rosette, 24, in 3:30:25.
The Fort Worth Marathon, a USATF-certified course and Boston qualifier, is a small race with fewer than 500 finishers over three distances (marathon, half-marathon and 20 miles). The race is a non-profit that raises money for Run Like a Cheetah, a local after-school program to fight childhood obesity.
Cheaters at Comrades
“The CMA will not tolerate cheating in any form. It is incumbent upon every athlete to honour the ethical code and ethos of the sport. We promote fair sport & and to this end are continuing with investigations into other alleged transgressions.” -CMA Race Director, @JamesRowyn pic.twitter.com/VZmUUKJHZQ
— ComradesRace (@ComradesRace) November 21, 2019
In other news, the Comrades Marathon in South Africa has announced that three finishers from this year’s race were found to have cheated, either by handing their bib to a “bib mule” in their qualifying race, or by giving the race fraudulent information. Like Marathon Investigation, the race declines to name the cheaters, but says their results have been scrubbed and they will not be allowed to register for the next two to five years, depending on their method of cheating.