Marathon Investigation Results Verification Partnership Announcement: A Letter to CIM Runners from the Race Director

CIM Runners,

It seems like every month another story about marathon cheaters comes up, whether it’s coursecutting, bib muling, or other creative methods of circumventing race rules. We at the Sacramento Running Association take this threat very seriously–as the #1 Boston qualifier by percentage of any major American marathon, maintaining the integrity of our results is among our top priorities, up there right behind putting on a safe event and right alongside having a positive impact in our community.

Over each of the last three years our Results Committee–consisting of our Race Director, our Head Timer from Capital Road Race Management, and a member of our Board–has spent over a month scouring our results, removing an average of 40-50 finishers (the majority of whom are not intentional cheaters) from the results before stamping them official in early January. Our intensive review includes looking at pace between split-points, reviewing missed split points, checking race photos and video, and several “state secret” methods that I could tell you about . . . but then I would have to kill you.

In order to enhance this process, we’re proud to announce that we have become a platinum-level sponsor of Marathon Investigation, and that they will now be serving on our Results Committee as our Official Results Verification Partner. We had been considering this for several months, but our decision was hastened by a recent case that was brought to our attention of a CraigsList post attempting to find a bib mule to run a BQ at the 2017 CIM. With a little bit of guidance from Marathon Investigation we were able to catch this runner, and . . . well, just read the email we sent him to see how we handled it and how seriously we take cases like this:

Hi [Redacted],

My name is Eli Asch, and I’m the Race Director of the California International Marathon. In conjunction with Marathon Investigation, our results integrity partner, we have determined that you sought out a bib mule to run a Boston Qualifier for you at the 2017 California International Marathon. Attached is a screenshot of the CraigsList post which brought this to our attention.

Transferring your bib at all is a clear violation of our race rules, as stated on our Event Rules page (“The California International Marathon entry fees may not be transferred under any circumstances. Individuals involved in these illegal transactions will both be disqualified”) and in the waiver you signed with your registration (in which you acknowledged “that the entry fee paid is non-refundable and non-transferable”). Beyond being a clear violation of event rules, paying a bib mule to run a Boston Qualifier for you goes even several steps further–it compromises the integrity of our event and its results, is intentional and premeditated cheating, and goes against the very spirit of the marathon. It is unethical and wrong, and could result in robbing someone of a spot on the Boston Marathon starting line–a spot that they fairly earned.

In light of this, your entry for this year’s California International Marathon has been invalidated and you are banned from future editions of the California International Marathon. Additionally, the Sacramento Running Association will be sharing your information with Marathon Investigation, which maintains a flagged list of runners whose results deserve further scrutiny, as well as other running organizations including many major races in our region as well as the Boston Athletics Association, organizers of the Boston Marathon. Beyond that we will keep your personal information confidential (although we reserve the right to change that stance if your future actions necessitate it).

If you are willing to both fully cooperate with our investigation (which will include sharing with us the information of anyone who responded to your CraigsList post expressing interest in being your bib mule as well as any other information we may request) and not contest our above-stated findings, the Sacramento Running Association will consider reducing the term of your ban to three years, making you eligible to run SRA races again after the 2020 CIM.

[Redacted], as the #1 Boston Qualifier by percentage of any major American marathon, the California International Marathon takes the integrity of its results very seriously. We’re proud of the fact that so many of our runners clock PRs, Olympic Trials Qualifiers, and toe the starting line in Hopkinton every year. But that wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t know that they earned it fairly. You attempted to subvert that, which is unacceptable–to us, but more importantly to every one of our runners whose results are earned honestly through sweat, sore muscles, and countless early morning miles run when it would just be easier to stay in bed.

It brings me no joy to send this email, because just the fact that I have to do so casts the slightest of shadows on every one of those runners’ hard-earned results– and, in fact, every marathoners’ results. But that is why I have to send it–and why the SRA has to issue this punishment. Because it’s our job to do everything we can within our power to remove that shadow, to assure that every time listed in our official results is honestly earned, to make sure that our marathoners can all hold their heads high knowing that their result is beyond reproach.

We hope that you realize what you did is wrong and won’t try to do it again. Then, next time you run a marathon, you’ll be able to look back at your results–whatever they may be–and, alongside your fellow marathoners, hold your head high, proud of what you’ve honestly accomplished and fairly earned.

So, to the over 99% of CIM runners with integrity, those of you who earn your results honestly, you can see how seriously we take matters that, left unaddressed, would affect the integrity of our (and your!) results. And for that fraction of a percent of you thinking about catching a ride to the finish line, or finding a bib mule, or in some other way compromising the integrity of our event–don’t do it! The SRA is paying attention. Marathon Investigation is helping us. You will be caught. And you will be punished.

Best regards,
Eli Asch
Race Director, California International Marathon