Thanks in part to the efforts of the now running world famous Marathon Investigator Derek Murphy, thousands of results from the recent Mexico City Marathon have come under scrutiny and are being actively investigated for cheating.
The event took place on Aug. 27 in the Mexican capital and saw almost 28,000 finishers, 1,296 of whom “earned” a Boston Qualifier (BQ). As in many large-scale events, timing mats were placed every 5K along the course to monitor participants’ progress in the race and provide split times. In total, there were eight timing mats for racers to cross throughout the marathon. As such, it should go without saying that participants missing multiple mats would raise a few red flags.
An analysis of the results of the Mexico Marathon showed that a vast majority (64 per cent) of participants didn’t miss any of the timing mats. This validates not only that the participants completed the entire course, but also that the mats did in fact work to record split times. However, this also meant that a full 36 per cent of participants missed at least one mat. More concerning is that 23 per cent missed multiple mats which suggests that the errors were not inaccurate by random.
Most interesting is which mats were missed. Figures show that it was disproportionately the early and mid-race mats– at 5K, 10K, 15K, halfway and 25K– that runners missed. Between 40-60 per cent of missed splits came from these mats. Compare that to only 23 per cent missing the 35K and only four per cent missing the 40K mat. So what does this suggest? It’s very likely that many participants crossed the starting line and then made their way towards the end of the race and then ran the final 10 or so kilometres.
This theory is mostly confirmed by Murphy who looked at a number of participants (those who ran a BQ time but missed multiple mats) and compared their overall race pace to the pace recorded from their final (2.2K) split. In some cases, there’s a clear discrepancy between the two suggesting there’s no way a participant could have averaged a pace for the whole 42.2K despite running significantly slower in the final 2.2K.
A Facebook page also provides multiple examples of cheating including photos of participants riding the subway toward the finish, “bib muling” (whereby a faster runner runs with multiple bibs to record a time for another person), and other means of course cutting.
One story on a Mexican news website suggests that 5,806 people have now been officially disqualified and the B.A.A. has also been made aware of the issue and will likely look out for registrants with Mexico City Marathon qualifying times.