Cheaters Sometimes Win

The expression “cheaters never win” doesn’t really make sense. Because, let’s be real, the world is unfair and sometimes they do win.

I got a dose of this reality this past weekend.

I was running a 5k and there was a girl who cut the racecourse, not once but twice. It was pretty blatant. She clearly knew what she was doing as she ran (waaaay) outside of the orange cones marking the route. The guy in front of her and the girl behind her were both inside them, and she saw both runners. However, in a poorly marshaled course, in a section with no spectators, the girl right behind her was the only person who knew what she did. The girl right behind her was me.

I wasn’t going to tell on her. Instead, I felt sorry for her. What did she hope to accomplish by turning in a time that wasn’t really a complete race? Why did she do it? And what gravity would her place and time hold if they weren’t actually legit? I wondered these things as I ran behind her. I knew her cheating would put me in sixth place, instead of fifth, and I was OK with that. I was on track to turn in a decent time, despite the nasty July heat. But, in some crazy twist of fate/universe-correcting-injustice, she made a slight wrong turn at the three-mile mark. I thought about yelling to her that she’d gone the wrong way, but she had headphones on, and I doubt she’d have heard me. A spectator grabbed her and turned her around about 100 meters off course. However, her mistake was big enough to let another woman and I pass her before she got back on track. When I crossed the line, the race official said I was the fifth woman overall and second in my age group. The woman who’d be kicking it in with me was sixth. We high fived each other, said thanks for the competition, and went to get water. We saw the runner who’d cheated cross the line a few seconds later and immediately storm over to the timers.

Fast-forward two long, hot, sunbaked hours of waiting later. (Yes, that’s how long it took them to tabulate results, and it gave me a new appreciation for races that are well run and organized.) During that time the runner who’d cut the course actually came up to me and asked my finishing time and place. I told her I wasn’t entirely sure since the official results weren’t out yet (a true statement). She said, “Oh, OK because I went the wrong way, and I was supposed to be in front of you.” I said nothing back. And she stood there next to me as the results were announced. I was called up as third in my age group and sixth overall. I was definitely a little confused about the discrepancy. But I didn’t want to go sort it out with the timers, nor did I wait to hear the rest of the results. Some of my family had run the race, and they’d been waiting around with me. I wasn’t going to keep them out in the hot sun any longer, so we left.

It wasn’t until the online results were posted that I found out what had happened…or at least I can venture a guess. The woman who’d gone off course not only managed to cut it without anyone noticing; she’d also somehow convinced the timers that she deserved a 15 second credit on her time. She was listed with a finishing time ahead of me — even though she’d be next to me at the start and finished behind me.

I was not OK with this.

I’ve run a lot of 5Ks since I first dipped my toes into the distance as a high school sophomore, and I’ve seen people cut racecourse before. I’ve never tattled on any them. Partly because my mom taught me that wasn’t nice and partly because I wanted to think it may have been unintentional.

Yet what this girl had done was purely intentional. She’d gone to officials and lobbied for a better time than she’d actually run. I’d heard that many runners experienced problems due to the poorly marshaled course and several were complaining. So I suspect the timers just gave into a lot of them – including the girl who’d cheated – in an effort to stop the fussing.

I sat there in front my computer blankly staring at the results, again wondering “why?”

Cheating – whether it’s cutting a course, doping, or anything else that’s considered foul play – makes no sense to me. I’m competitive, so I understand the desire to win. I get that sometimes that desire is so burning hot that it makes people do crazy, dangerous, stupid, out-of-their-freaking-noggin sorts of things. That it makes all forms of logic and reason fly right out the window. However, I’m never going to understand why people think cheating is a means to a legit win. It’s not. It diminishes the integrity of the runner and our sport. It takes away from those who work really hard, and pour a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into training and competing.

I love running, so I’m usually very protective of my sport and those who share my passion for it. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve said something to race officials. After all, it wasn’t just me who was impacted by her dishonesty. The girl who’d finished less than a second behind me and all those who finished after us were, too, even if they didn’t know it.

It’s too late for that now. So, instead, I’ll make this plea: Push your limits. Explore your boundaries. Run inspired. But please, please don’t cheat. Cheaters may sometimes “win,” but the sport always loses.

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We are Runners

Yesterday our sport was attacked. Something sacred that we, as runners, hold dear to our hearts was marred by a senseless act of violence. The Boston Marathon, our epitome of strength and commitment, a holy grail that many seek with dogged and often exhausting abandon, became a platform for terrorism.

We watched in horror and disbelief as our fellow runners, friends, family, loved ones and kindred spirits emerged from clouds of smoke stunned, bruised and battered. We saw the finish line, a place of joy and achievement, transform into a crime scene. The vibrancy and happiness of the day drained away and blood stained. All for the sake of sending a worthless, yet-to-be-determined message. Our hearts ached for those lost and injured. Our stomachs turned at the thought that this could happen to any of us, at any road race, in any city.

To those responsible for the attack, your act of violence sent shockwaves through our community. You wounded us and everyone who knows, loves, admires or respects a runner. You gained the exposure you so desperately and cruelly sought. However, you did not and will not succeed in breaking our spirit, in diminishing our commitment to our sport, or shaking our unfailing resolve.

We are runners. We endure. We triumph over seemingly insurmountable physical and mental challenges. We are strong, stubborn and unflappable – even in the worst of circumstances. Adversity and heartbreak are nothing new to us. We test the limits of our minds and bodies daily and are made stronger by the pain.

This tragedy will change us, but not in the way the cowardly attackers intended. It will unite us, make us stronger, more determined, and weave thicker the bonds of our running community.

We will not be detoured by yesterday’s events. We will continue to do what we love. We will wake up before the sun rises to train. We will run races, volunteer at water stations, and ring cowbells to spur on friends and family. We will be fearless. We will run inspired. And we will return to Boston.

Because we are runners.

Trailkill

Long run are not my favorite thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love to run. But outside of races, I prefer not do more than 10 miles during a training run. That said, I’ve learned to suffer through an extended number of training miles for the sake of not suffering during races. All of this is somewhat relevant because I had to do a long training run this weekend. I wasn’t particularly excited about it. I already had a lot of miles on my legs for the week, but I went out anyway. To run the time I want at the Akron Marathon in a few weeks, I needed to cover a lot of distance in one (long) shot. So I found myself traversing the paths through the park on Saturday — before most people were out of bed.

The morning was cool and slightly overcast and it felt more like fall than August. Perfect for running. The first couple miles went by quickly, but as I approached the end of the third mile, I saw something in the middle of the path ahead. From a distance, it looked a bit like a beat up basketball. As I got closer, I realized it wasn’t a ball, but a deer. Actually half a deer to be exact. I’m originally from Ohio, so I’ve seen my fair share of roadkill. However, this poor little creature had met another type of foul ending. Her hindquarters were completely missing. I thought she’d been hit by a car, but given that no blood trail or hind legs were in sight — not that I looked all that hard for them — it’s more likely that something else wild got her. Bears are not native to these parts, so maybe it was a coyote. They are pretty scarce, though. So what got her? I spent the rest of my long run on the lookout for whatever was lurking in those woods. Hopefully I never find it.