5 Telltale Signs of a Cheater

fri5Cheating sucks. Here at Salty Running we have several bloggers who have worked their tails off to qualify for Boston. Some have made it and some haven’t. Some of them did qualify, but were shut out from registering because they didn’t qualify enough. So it really steams me when someone claims to have earned this achievement and takes a spot on the Boston start line when good, honest people who earned it get shut out.

Enter Viral Letter-to-Principal Boston Marathon Guy. He’s the guy who took his kids with him while he ran Boston, received a form letter from their principal advising him their absences were unexcused, and then publicly reamed her out for questioning the educational value of witnessing their dad heroically overcome injury to complete the Boston Marathon. Sounds noble, until we learn of allegations that he cheated his way to Boston. WHAT?! Could it be?

Here’s the evidence. You decide:

1. His qualifying time (3:11:45) is incredible–maybe too incredible, given his recent race times at other distances. His BQ time is just several seconds slower per mile than his 5k PR.  Rossi’s fastest 5k averaged 7:02 pace and was run 2 weeks after his BQ in which he supposedly ran 7:18 pace. 6 weeks before his BQ he ran a 5k averaging 7:13 pace. He basically had to run his 5k PR 8.5 times without a break.  In fact, a marathon run at 7:18 pace would give him substantial PRs in every distance from 10k on up. While it’s not unheard of for someone to run a huge marathon PR like this, it’s unlikely. But when you factor in other evidence it becomes downright impossible. Most notably …

A Letsrun poster who actually ran the race and crossed shortly after Rossi explains how the weather affected his race.


2. The weather was not at all conducive to running a massive PR for anyone. It was over 70 degrees and sunny by the finish. Have you ever run a marathon in 70+ degree weather and sun? It’s not particularly fun and it’s certainly not fast weather. Particularly …

3. When wearing a black t-shirt and black hat for the entire race. Take a look at his finish line photos and video. Would you still be wearing that hat at the end of a HOT marathon? Not only that, would you have dry spots on your shirt and look like you hardly worked?  If one were to run the race of his life – by A LOT – wouldn’t one look like a sweaty mess at the end? Not convinced yet? What if there is …

4. No evidence that he was on the course between the start and finish. Most marathons nowadays have chip timing mats at fairly regular intervals to both take splits for those tracking you, but also to make sure you ran the course! If you don’t register splits other than the finish line, then there is no proof you ran the entire race. Rossi’s BQ race, the Lehigh VIA Marathon, did not have any timing mats between the start and finish, so there is no chip evidence he was on the course. Of course that’s not his fault. But it is rather convenient for someone looking to cross the starting line, run to his car and drive to the last marathon relay exchange-point less than four miles from the finish and jump in the race, but I digress …

However, there were photographers at several points in the middle of the race and not a single one captured him on film.  (We know this because of an exhaustive spreadsheet that was created to find any photo that would debunk the cheating theory.)

  • There are no photos of him besides the start (his own selfie) or finish line (pro pics).
  • There are none of him despite his number being perfectly visible on his shirt in the finish photos.
  • There are no photos of him in any of the photos from the middle of the race, including none of him behind or near any of 50 runners directly finishing behind him or 50 runners finishing directly in front of him and there are no photos of him in the lost and found photos.
  • There are no other runners with clearly visible bib numbers who have no photos of them in the middle of the race ,.. except for Mike Rossi. And Mike Rossi would likely have bought some of those photos too because …

5.  He is big into social media, tweeting, facebooking and blogging about his accomplishments any chance he gets … except when it came to his incredible Lehigh VIA Marathon performance, the BQ he so coveted and by far the (supposed) performance of his life.  He regularly posted race reports on his blog or tweeted and facebooked up a storm before and after photos and commentary about his performances, but remained relatively silent about his more than 60 minute PR and BQ.  He ran “the race of his life” and suddenly (and very temporarily) gained humility? He tweeted once about the BQ in response to someone asking him about it and didn’t blog about it at all.

A Letsrun poster sums it up as only a Letsrun poster could.


And as soon as folks started questioning the discrepancies, he first deleted those comments and blocked the questioners.  When it didn’t let up he disabled his Twitter account and made his Facebook profile and blog private. His only defense:

“I have a selfie picture of me at the start and there are photos of me at the finish and video of me finishing the race. The race bib system also documented me at the start and finish. An independent photographer took my picture at the finish.”


What’s really incredible is that if he never made that letter to the principal public, no one would have ever known he (likely) cheated. Much like the woman who cheated at the St. Louis Go! Marathon last month who would never have been caught if she didn’t bring attention on herself by winning the darn thing, Mike Rossi should have just kept his mouth shut.  If he had, he would be tweeting selfies in his Boston Marathon jacket (2014 and 2015, in lspite of only having raced in 2015) and no one would think anything of it.

What do you think? Do you think the evidence is enough to conclude Mike Rossi cheated his way to Boston? Do you even care?

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. I can’t look away from this train wreck. He has got to step up and confess and apologize soon. The evidence is just too strong. #5 really seals it for me

    1. In my mind there is no question. Unless he pulls out something like authenticated GPS data or finds missing photos of himself on the course I will believe he cheated. It is just so insane! Why so people do this?! So weird and pathetic if true!

  2. I feel bad for anyone who didn’t make it into Boston because they weren’t fast enough and a cheater was “faster.”
    Another piece of evidence is that he’s supposedly big into Nike+ (he has since made his activity private) but doesn’t have GPS to support that he ran the course. But he did post that he ran an 18 miler @ his LV pace. I’m not sure if he posted the GPS data to back that up, because you can manually add runs into Nike+.
    Also, his letter to the principal was a douche move. I haven’t been in grade school in years, but any absence other than one with a letter from your doctor was an unexcused absence. Period. At least when I grew up they never did a case by case validation of an excuse. My boss’s two kids had different spring breaks and so one obviously had to miss school for their vacation, before they even left she was told that it would be considered unexcused absences, it’s just the rules.

    1. The 18 miler was at 7:5x pace with walk breaks and I believe he uploaded the data for that. I can go dig for a link. I know someone posted it in the letsrun thread.

      And yeah. I’m all for parental control over kids lives and would pull my kids for valuable life experience but I wouldn’t be a blowhard jerk about it and I wouldn’t diminish the work of my kids’ teachers and school admins in the process. Eek.

    2. Agree. Parents blame teachers and then don’t reinforce the importance of education at home. Vacation over classes? please. This guy just wanted to run Boston and did what ever he had to do.
      Either run the time or pony up $5K for Dana Farber etc.

  3. What an incredibly cogent brief, Lawyer Salty! I’m convinced he cheated, and I do care. We cannot condone cheating in our sport or any sport at any level. I agree with Catnip, he needs to come clean, but he probably won’t because clearly he is delusional.

    1. Haha! I didn’t even think of this ad lawyerly but I guess it kinda is, evidence and all 🙂 Im really interested to see how he plays this out!

  4. I read the article on runnersworld.com. His qualifying race only had a start and finish mat, like 95% of races I run have. Maybe they need to make it a requirement that all Boston Marathon Qualifier races need at least a half-marathon timer and maybe 10K and 30K, or something like that.
    It’s easy to jump into a race and cheat. His other races do not indicate that he was capable of a BQ, but magic must have happened that day. ?
    I think most people think this guy is out for publicity and trying to make a point about kids learning more by walking around Boston than going to math and English class.
    I’ll be kind and just say I disagree with him.

  5. This has been absolutely fascinating, probably the most entertaining LR thread I’ve ever followed. Also, the amount of organized, crowd-sourced research they’ve put in to figure out what happened is astounding. I’m really glad I happened to notice the thread when there were only 3 pages of comments, catching up on all 98 pages would be a bit overwhelming at this point ; )

  6. bottom line is if you cheat, you’re cheating yourself. he knows if he really didn’t qualify. unless he confesses, the rest of us won’t know for sure. although i’m sure it annoys others who wanted to qualify for boston and didn’t, the bottom line is he knows what he did and once you taint your record as a runner you always know that. and that has to really make you feel like crap.

  7. You know, hearing about two people that faked their BQs, it makes me wonder how many other people who didn’t draw attention to themselves did the same. I worked pretty darned hard for my BQ. I can’t imagine giving up the pride I got from it for a lie. How little must you believe in yourself to quit trying and do something so pathetic?

  8. We already knew that this jerk’s kids are so special that the rules don’t apply to them. Why would we expect him to believe anything different about himself?

  9. I wish he would come clean! I agree with Catnip–#5 is convincing enough for me. I may have my facts incorrect, but I thought I read that someone in or around his hometown was the one who brought up the suspicion in the first place. Someone from a local tri club or running club? If someone cared that much to tip off the running media, then it makes me think that MR has a reputation of being questionable in the first place.

    Such a shame!

  10. I just… I just… like….


    Isn’t the whole point of Boston that you have to qualify? And that it’s REALLY hard? Like that’s the Big Deal part of it, non?

    If you want to run a marathon, there are tons out there… why cheat?

    This does not compute.

  11. Can you find Mike Rossi? Every runner has photos except Mike Rossi. Below is a video of all the Top 200 finishers’ photos taken at 5 separate photo checkpoints. While one may try to argue that a professional photographer could miss Mike Rossi at one location while taking photos in rapid fire succession, missing him at all five locations is hard to fathom or explain. Coincidence, I think not, nor would any reasonable person. Strangely absent at all five photo checkpoints is Mike Rossi.


    Read more and see more evidence here –