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«I made a horrible choice»: How a blogger discovered a runner cheating in a half-marathon

People running in Prague half marathon in the spring of 2016.

«I think most peo­ple aren’t aware of how much cheat­ing goes on in marathons.» Were you aware? I was­n’t. But Derek Mur­phy, an inde­pen­dent marathon inves­ti­ga­tor, should know. He recent­ly took par­tic­u­lar care to exam­ine the case of Jane Seo, a food and fit­ness writer in New York City. She fin­ished sec­ond among the women in Sunday’s Fort Laud­erdale Half Marathon in 1 hour and 21 min­utes, a blaz­ing 6:15 mile. But she cheated.

As an ini­tial indi­ca­tion Derek found out, that Seo’s pace dur­ing the first 10 kilo­me­ters was 7:09 per mile, but dur­ing the last 11.08 kilo­me­ters, it increased tremen­dous­ly to 5:25 per mile. He then turned to her account on Stra­va to have a clos­er look at cer­tain details. And last but not least he observed in offi­cial post-race pho­tos that a fit­ness track­ing watch was wrapped around Seo’s wrist, dis­play­ing close to the prop­er time, but the incor­rect mileage. Seo had skipped about a mile and a half of the race and rode her bike along the course lat­er in the day to cov­er her tracks.

«What was even more incred­i­ble — and what tipped race timer Josh Stern off to the fact that some­thing fishy was afoot — was that Seo ran faster miles in the sec­ond half of the race. Though run­ners often try to main­tain a steady pace for the whole she­bang, exhaus­tion forces most to slow down as they near the fin­ish line.»

Seo mean­while has post­ed an Insta­gram post she’s since removed, stat­ing that she made «a HORRIBLE choice. I wasn’t feel­ing well so I CUT THE COURSE and head­ed to the fin­ish line. I got swept away in the moment and pre­tend­ed I ran the entire course, when in fact I CHEATED and should have DISQUALIFIED myself.»

Travis M. Andrews has writ­ten an arti­cle for The Wash­ing­ton Post about all this, that reads like a detec­tive sto­ry. It’s the sto­ry of a bad deci­sion with major con­se­quences (Seo appears to have dis­abled her social media accounts), but it’s also the sto­ry of a wide­spread phe­nom­e­non, as we should not for­get Derek Mur­phy’s quote. «Most peo­ple aren’t aware of how much cheat­ing goes on in marathons.» Now I’m aware.

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