For runners, there’s nothing like pursuing a challenging and elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time. Running fast enough to earn an entrance into the most prestigious 26.2-mile race of all time is a goal many will never achieve.
So nothing is quite as offensive as finding out that others could have cheated to earn their spot in the famed race. Derek Murphy, 46-year-old a business analyst and suburban dad in Ohio, is working to keep runners around the country — and world — honest.
Depending on their age group, runners need to get a BQ — short for Boston qualifier — at a previous marathon. Those who run faster than the limit for their age earn entrance into Boston and can then register for the marathon (there are a small amount of charity bibs available, for which no qualifying time is required). Murphy and his network of race sleuths on blog Marathon Investigation identified 15 people who had gained entrance into Boston this year that had no place there, he said.
Eight of those runners cut the course in their qualifying race and seven who didn’t run the previous race themselves but used a “bib mule,” or someone else who carried their bib and ran fast enough to qualify them. Murphy finds the cheaters by identifying people whose race splits are impossibly fast, have run the qualifying race much faster than any of their previous times, or missed crossing any of the electronic data checkpoints. (Along the race course, runners cross finish-line like pads to mark their splits at particular course milestones, like a 5k and the 13.1 halfway point.) These and other irregularities help Murphy scrutinize the results of runners who may not belong in Boston.
He posted a warning last week that if there were others who had cheated to earn their spot, they likely wouldn’t be able to hide it from him.
“My advice to those that are planning to run Boston next week that didn’t earn the honor – Don’t do it,” Murphy wrote on his blog. “You didn’t earn the right to wear that bib. There is a very good chance that you will be identified..if you haven’t been already.”
Murphy, who started the blog in 2015, said he has run 10 marathons.
“I’ve never been close to qualifying for Boston, but I can appreciate how much hard work goes into that,” Murphy told the Boston Globe. “So, people taking shortcuts rubs me the wrong way.”
He also discourages runners from selling their bib, which is an illegal practice in many road races. Race directors prohibit allowing someone else to run as you because for safety reasons they need to know exactly who is on the course, and ensure that they have accurate emergency contact information for all participants in case something happens. If someone is running the race but is using the registration of someone else, race personnel can’t accurately identify everyone.
Although he’s not officially affiliated with Boston, Murphy’s work helps the Boston Athletic Association, which puts on the marathon, identify cheaters it wouldn’t otherwise have the time to find and disqualify.
“We’ll have some people every year who’ll behave in a way that they shouldn’t,” Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk told the Boston Globe. “But from what we can tell, the number of people who misbehave is very, very small. There’s an honesty rate that the Internal Revenue Service would love to see.”