The Boston Marathon has an incredible reputation amongst runners. That is because you have to prove you met their qualifying standard in a prior marathon. For young men, that time is 3:10. For young women, the time is 3:40. The times get easier as you get older. At age 60, the qualifying time is 4 hours for men and 4:30 for women.

I ran the Boston marathon on Patriot’s Day. I went into the race with a nagging hamstring injury and it flared up after 8 nicely paced miles. I resolved to keep going as long as I could run  and eventually finished. A running acquaintance finished a little after me. His qualifying time was 90 minutes better than his finishing time.  Despite my injury, I was only an hour off. I’d heard rumors that there was something fishy about his entry. A little research delivered photographic evidence that my acquaintance had had someone else run a qualifying marathon under his name.

The Boston Marathon has an entrant cap of 25,000. That cap was met in November 2009. People who had qualified but not entered, or qualified too late, missed out. My acquaintance had cheated his way into the marathon and deprived someone else of a place. My moral dilemma is whether or not to alert the Boston Marathon of this fraud.

I have had prior experience in alerting authorities to runners’ fraud. These days, marathon runners are given timing chips to attach to their shoes. When they cross the starting line, the signal from the chip is recorded by a receiver (the chip-mat) and the runner’s actual starting time is recorded exactly. When they cross the finish line, the finishing time is recorded. This is important because it can take 20 or 30 minutes to reach the starting line in a large marathon. I ran my first marathon in Philadelphia. The last half of the course was an out-and-back to Manayunk following the Schuykill River. At countless points, a runner could have done a u-turn and cut miles off of their race. I thought about this and checked the results. Dozens of runners had finished the second half of the race 20 or 30 minutes faster than the first half, and qualified for Boston. I alerted the race directors and they added a chip mat at Manayunk in subsequent years. Runners who did not cross that chip-mat would be disqualified. It was an easy call for the Philadelphia marathon; if Boston knew Philadelphia had such a gaping hole, it would reject entrants claiming Philadelphia as their qualifying race. Philadelphia would lose its status as a Boston qualifier and a huge number of runners.

My moral dilemma: should I inform the Boston Marathon authorities of my acquaintance’s fraud?  Or should I let it pass?

OK, made a decision. I’m informing.

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