The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) enforced its strict race number policies recently by banning blogger and runner Gia Alvarez from future B.A.A. events after she gave her bib to a friend and used that time to qualify for this year’s Boston Marathon.
Update (04/06, 5 p.m. EDT): Alvarez has since admitted to using her friend’s time to qualify for the 2016 Boston Marathon writing in her blog, “I apologize for both the bib transfer and for using a time that wasn’t mine. Please understand that I respect the BAA and the Boston Marathon. I personally know how hard it is to qualify and how hard we runners work to have the privilege of running this marathon.”
According to Alvarez, she qualified for the Boston Marathon twice previously, in 2014 and in 2015. Both times she missed out on running due to personal reasons adding, via her blog, that “I have been unable to run with my bib two years in a row.”
On both instances, she ran legitimate qualifying times to get into Boston.
But last year, despite admitting that she didn’t run, her name appears in the 2015 results, since removed by the B.A.A. on their official website, with a time of 3:22:41 (see below). When searching her name on Marathon Foto, the official provider of race photography, a different runner appears to be wearing her bib (17658).
Alvarez admitted to giving the bib to a friend and letting her run the race in 2015. “As I said before I was unable to run with my bib last year. However someone did run with that bib. I gave it to a friend,” she writes in the blog.
She used the 3:22:41 seen in the above 2015 results to gain entry to the 2016 Boston Marathon. Alvarez’s name no longer appears on the official 2016 entry list of runners, as provided by the B.A.A., though she had been in the system until this past weekend.
Screenshots of her 3:22 time being used as the qualifying time can be found on Marathoninvestigation.com. She was originally given bib number 12839. Runners slotted with numbers 12838, 12840 and 12840 still appear with near-identical qualifying times (understandable since bibs relate to a runner’s race time).
Originally, the New Jersey resident made no mention on her blog of using her 2015 time (which she had a friend run for her) for the upcoming race on April 18. Alvarez said she was caught by the B.A.A. because of an “anonymous tip.”
The B.A.A., the host organization for the Boston Marathon and other events in the Boston area, outlines its policy regarding bib numbers with the following:
“No one who is assigned a bib (either through the qualification process or by invitational entry) may give it to another individual, and those who do will be prohibited from entering any future B.A.A. race.”
When asked about Alvarez’s case, the B.A.A. told Canadian Running that the organization “works to uphold the integrity of the qualification and registration process, acting when necessary on information the B.A.A. deems inconsistent or invalid. We understand the importance that our qualifying and registration procedures have for runners.”
Runners reacted to her blog post on Facebook, which can be seen below in the embedded post:
Runners must qualify for the Boston Marathon each year. One cannot use a time from 2013, for example, to qualify for the 2016 edition. People can not qualify on behalf of other runners either. Alvarez was explicitly asked whether she used the time associated with her name in 2015 to try and gain entry for this year’s Boston Marathon but declined to answer.
Comments have since been closed on her personal blog.
Mike Rossi became notorious last year for trying to cheat his way to a Boston qualifying time and was called out after an Internet investigation ensued. He allegedly cut a race course to qualify with a 3:11 marathon.
In 2014, the wife of Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley, Chelsea, was caught banditting the race and using a fake Boston number. He issued an apology on behalf of his wife.
Some people spend much of their running career trying to qualify and run the Boston Marathon, which raises the stakes for potential cheaters. Not every runner who hits their age group qualifying times gets automatic entry either.
Bib exchange is especially prevalent in big city marathons because of pricey entry fees and the inability to recoup costs if last-minute withdrawal is needed for injury, health or family reasons.
Selling and buying race numbers remain a problem at the Boston Marathon as qualifying for the race gets tougher each year with increased popularity, which gives way to a black market for bibs. On Monday, the following post popped up on Craigslist:
Craigslist advertisements at other big city marathons, like the New York City Marathon, for example, are plentiful with numbers being sold for upwards of US$1,000.
Want to learn more about buying and re-selling bib numbers? See Canadian Running‘s “Buying and reselling race numbers: Road running’s dirty little secret.”