Apologies for the clickbait title of this post. You'll see what I mean in a moment.
Well, it's another year, and we have ourselves another story of someone cheating to get into the Boston Marathon. Last year we had Mike Rossi, he of the 23,000 post thread on letsrun.com (who, for the record, never admitted to any wrong-doing). This year we have Gia Alvarez, New Jersey mother and running blogger.
Alvarez legitimately qualified for the Boston Marathon twice, but ran neither race due to a miscarriage in 2014 and a pregnancy in 2015. She ended up giving her 2015 bib to a friend who ran in her place. This in itself is a big violation, but the major transgression here is that Alvarez then used her friend's BQ time to enter this year's race. Someone tipped off the BAA, and she consequently earned herself a lifetime ban from the Boston Marathon. She will never get to run this hallowed race.
To her credit, Alvarez later posted an apology on her blog, though it has naturally sparked a debate in the running community about the fairness of this outcome, with most siding with the BAA. But it turns out this is only the tip of the iceberg.
According to a recent article on runnersworld.com, there is a man based in Ohio who is personally combing through the thousands of finishing times in last year's Boston Marathon to see if anyone cheated to get there. Anyone who ran Boston twenty minutes slower than their BQ automatically raises a red flag, at which point Derek Murphy and three of his colleagues begin examining race photos and past race results. I ran nearly thirty minutes slower than my qualifying time, meaning I was one of the two thousand or so that came under investigation.
According to the article, Murphy has found 47 cheaters so far (with still more data to sift through), and reported all of them to the BAA, though what the BAA will do with this information is hard to say. He plans to get started on the 2016 race as soon as the results are released.
That so many people are cheating to get into Boston, seemingly more than ever, and that so many people are outraged by it, isn't necessarily a new topic. Boston being what it is, it inspires not just passion in athleticism, but in the overall culture surrounding it. And with new runners being added to the fold every year, and the flames of passion fanned by social media, the cult will only continue to grow.
Rather than being indignant over cheating to enter Boston, what interest me are people like Derek Murphy and his website marathoninvestigation.com. What place do citizen avengers have in the running community? Should we give ourselves over to vigilante justice when we are convinced officials aren't doing enough? Is public shaming the answer?
I had a brief exchange with someone on Twitter who is clearly in the "Derek Murphy needs to get a life" camp.
I might have argued that the cheaters are the ones adding to the ugly culture, and the people ferreting them out are thereby cleaning it up, but let's face it, arguing with someone on Twitter is about as fruitful as telling a toddler "no."
Like most people (especially those in New England), I like thinking of the Boston Marathon as the people's race. Even Dave McGillivray considers himself the caretaker rather than the race director. So I like thinking of the race as more than just any race, and something that means enough to so many that people are willing to fight for it.
So what do you think, people of the internet? Does the BAA need average Joes fighting the good fight, or should we all just let the BAA do its job?