Marathoning the Easy Way: The Run Free Fake Marathon

Eric Norgren, Elanor Welmers 2010 05 30
Did these guys work hard for their medals ? (Photo credit: ianhun2009)

It is that time of year.  Many of us are dusting off our trainers and starting our shiny new training schedules for the spring marathon season.  As blogger Mark Matthews, recently explained, there is a lot more than just registering for a race.  You have to own it and get ready to put in a lot of commitment and hard work before race day rolls around.

Or do you?

Not according to Groupon!

Fake Marathon Groupon

For just $20 you can register to run a fake marathon on February 2, 2013 put on by!  That’s right.  Sign up and you can receive:

  • official race apparel (although you had to register by 1.11.2013 to ensure you’d receive it in time for the February 2 race);
  • bib number;
  • program;
  • staged photos along the way; AND
  • a predetermined time

Sweet.  Who says you have to work hard to earn that PR?

Unfortunately, the above-Groupon, which was advertised in the San Francisco area, is no longer available.  But have no fear, the sponsor of the Groupon, Run Free Race, has registration still open on its web site:   You may not get your packet in time for the actual “non-race” but here is what you can get for just $40:

Fake Marathon Schwag

In the meantime, you are encouraged to post photos of your alleged training and fake race day on Run Free Race’s website and other social media with the hashtag #runfreerace.

It certainly sounds a lot easier and cheaper than 18 weeks of hard work and the $3000 plus required to run the Boston Marathon and Kip Litton could have saved himself a lot of trouble.

And no, by the way, I am not making this up.  What is even crazier is that via Kickstarter, Run Free Race raised more than $23,000 to back this project.   If there are enough photos, it must be real, right?  Ridiculous?

Have you heard of this social experiment or know anyone doing it?  Does it offend your running sensibilities or do you see the humor in this project?

Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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  1. This is so weird. I know part of the draw of running a marathon is bragging rights, but at least for me the bigger draw is the thrill of the accomplishment. You don’t get that thrill with this you just get the stuff…which is fun but not the point at least for me. I almost feel like this demeans the accomplishment of running a marathon and find it a little lame.

  2. I’m reading this and still trying to figure out what is real and what is fake. It’s like I’m stuck in the Matrix.

    And I think after two mentions, I deserve an honorary spice after my name. (you know, like that spice that you have way back in your shelf, the one that’s been there so long the expiration date has faded, and all the spice is stuck together.)

    Hilarious on the Manti Te’o Marathon.

    1. This post almost had me opening my spice cabinet to find a good moniker for you, but then I realized almost everything in there might meet your criteria and I wasn’t ready to go there. 🙂

  3. This is crazy, but also kind of hilarious! I do get what they’re going for with the social media angle. It seems like so many people have to update their statuses or post things ASAP, or post photos or it didn’t happen, like they need that validation. But charging people to be a part of their social experiment? Crazy. (And I noticed that people really are using that hashtag, btw.)

  4. Look, as you all know, I take my running/training/marathoning pretty seriously. But I am in the camp that thinks this is pretty hilarious. Crazy? Yes. Hilarious? Definitely. I don’t think anyone who would do it is actually trying to fool anyone that they actually ran a marathon and I don’t think it is meant to mock runners. I think it is just a fun photography/social project (if there are photos, it must be true). If you look at what people are posting, it is actually pretty amusing. This is not to say I would ever do it, but it does not offend my runner sensibilities.

    1. The social experiment thing is totally cool with me, I just don’t get why they are charging people to do this. Wouldn’t it be like 7000x cooler if people just came together and did this on their own rather than one guy/group selling Groupons? I have lots of bibs, shirts and medals I’d be happy to donate to the cause 🙂

  5. Hey all,

    Kyle here. I’m the guy behind the Run Free fake marathon (I’m also the guy in the Kickstarter video).

    For what it’s worth, I just completed my first half marathon in December (although I got injured and ended up with an awful time), so I’m not against running at all. My wife just completed her second half, and is trying to get me to commit to doing a (real) full marathon later this year, but I’m still trying to decide on that one. My other two business partners have both completed full marathons. We love running!

    This event isn’t meant to poke fun at runners, but rather to poke fun at the culture of posting everything online the second it happens. We wanted to test the idea of how many pictures/pieces of evidence it takes for something to be considered “real”.

    The reason we charged for the race was because all of those materials (t-shirts, medals, bibs, shipping, etc.) cost money. Factor in the time it took to design, order, package, ship, communicate with customers, etc… there were thousands of man-hours involved in the project by our team. We wanted to do things right, too . So we didn’t just order generic medals and have our race name stamped in the back – we designed and manufactured custom medals. We didn’t order generic (cheap) numbered bibs. We had custom bibs printed. All of that costs money, so we had to charge for it.

    That said, we didn’t charge as much as you think. The original registration price on Kickstarter was just $10 for a basic registration and $20-25 for a full registration (plus more if you wanted medals or other perks).

    The price went up to $40 after Kickstarter because there was more risk for us at that point (With Kickstarter, we could just order enough supplies to ship to the people who ordered. Because of the shortened timeline post-kickstarter, we had to order some supplies and keep them in stock) so we had to cover our bases.

    Granted, people could’ve all gotten together and used old bibs/medals, along with whatever race t-shirt they had lying around, but the effect wouldn’t have been the same. We wanted to have lots of people with evidence of an event that never actually happened… in order to that, we’d need all the evidence (shirts, medals, etc.) to match up.

    Hopefully that helps explain things a bit. We love runners (there are a TON of real marathon runners signed up for the event, believe it or not!) and this is not at all a dig at runners. It’s just a fun social-media experiment and one of those things that we want to look back on and laugh.

    So far it’s shaping up to work out that way. We’ve got over 1000 people signed up around the world, and we’ve heard tons of cool stories of people coming together to plan ridiculous festivities on race day (fake aid stations handing out spaghetti, etc.).

    We know that not everyone will understand the humor (is there really any humor that is universal?), but we hope that if nothing else, you can walk away from this discussion saying “Well, they seem like good guys.”

    Thanks for the article!

    1. Kyle – thanks for popping in to explain everything! I completely understand the cost perspective – even if the race is not real. So often I hear runners who seem to assume putting on a race and all the schwag involves no costs – very far from the truth.

      Anyway, I look forward to seeing how it pans out – 1000 people is pretty impressive.

    2. Thanks for stopping by and explaining it more, Kyle! And congrats on finishing your first half. That’s a great accomplishment no matter what the finishing time. Speaking of which, if you can get me a sub-3 finishing time for the RFR, I might consider doing it 🙂

  6. This is fascinating to me, but I can’t help but feel weird about it. Training for and running a marathon is a test of character, and I don’t want anyone to feel diminished by this. The other part of me thinks it’s interesting, as I often poke fun of people by telling them if it wasn’t on Facebook it never happened, and this is an interesting take on that. What an opportunity for studying online social behavior. Thanks for your explaination/contribution, Kyle, and congrats on that half marathon!