When I learned this week was #cheaterweek, I jumped at the chance to hop on my soapbox. Call me high and mighty, that’s fine. I have a lot of feelings about cheating.
There are a few different types of cheating in running: course-cutting, bib-swapping, and banditing. Some are worse offenses than others, but they’re all cheating.
This is one type of cheating I will truly never ever understand. While hopping on the sidewalk to get around slower runners is technically a form of course-cutting, I don’t think it’s ever done in a way to cheat. But true course-cutting — hopping off the race course and hopping back on to make it shorter, thus making you seem faster — is unforgivable. Why run a race if you’re going to cheat? And as my mom would say, how does that person sleep at night?
Most of us are not professional (elite) runners, or even racing at the sub-elite level. So when you sign up and train for a race, you’re likely competing against yourself. If you’re in contention for a local win or an age-group award, and you’ve cut the course to secure one, it doesn’t make sense to me to take that award and go home saying you won it. You didn’t. You cheated. And in the process, you cheated the actual winner out of his or her award.
If you’re not in contention for an award, you’re running for a Boston Qualifier or to PR. So if you cut the course, you’re not actually a Boston Qualifier (and how you would toe the line in Hopkinton telling yourself you “did it!” is beyond me), and your PR isn’t actually a PR. I truly want to know: How does this make you feel good?
Maybe I’m extreme, but if I “PR” on a race course that is too short, I will let people know (and update my Strava accordingly). I wouldn’t have run that time if the course had been accurate. So I just don’t understand how people take credit for something they didn’t do.
In my experience, a bib “swap” generally happens when the registered runner can’t race so she gives her bib to someone who can. That’s against the rules—don’t do it. But when you give someone a bib to run a faster time (say, for a Boston Qualifier) for you, it’s the same as course-cutting: You didn’t earn the time. How can you walk away feeling proud of your “accomplishment?” And like course-cutting, you cheated someone out of their Boston spot.
This is a hot-button issue, especially after a public figure in the running community came out as a bandit and didn’t apologize for it. I’ll first acknowledge that unlike swapping and course-cutting, banditing likely will not affect me personally. It won’t take away an age-group award or a Boston Qualifier spot from me. But I follow the rules. And banditing is against the rules. If you want to run the race, sign up for it just like everybody else.
Boston, the Holy Grail for everyday runners, used to “welcome” bandits. It was part of the tradition. After the bombings in 2013, it became a security risk to let non-registered runners onto the course. And it became irresponsible to ignore the rule. There are two ways into Boston: qualify or run with a charity.
In the age of social media, it seems like people feel pressured to cheat to make themselves look better. They need the likes. But if you’re cheating just so you look faster on Athlinks or in your Instagram feed, you’re running for the wrong reasons. Sure, I may look up your times, but I’m only going to judge you if you felt the need to cheat to go faster.
Help me out, please: Why do people do these things?