The Darker Side Of Running
Have you ever felt compelled to cheat in races? Have you witnessed someone cheating during a running event? It sounds ridiculous, but there are some unscrupulous runners who knowingly or inadvertently cheat to gain an unfair advantage or to wrongly claim a prize.
In this article, I uncover some sad truth about cheaters, and to my surprise, cheating during races is not uncommon at all; it just varies in the severity of the offence. Some event organisers turn a blind eye for small mistermeanours, and some bigger events are threatening to met out stricter penalties against proven offenders.
This article was published in Running Malaysia magazine of July/August 2018 issue, and in case, you could not obtain that issue, I have reposted my article here…
HERO TO ZERO
Running is invigorating, enriching and sometimes, even LIFE-CHANGING. Many runners enjoy Running as a way to stay fit, to challenge themselves, as well as to socialise with like-minded people from the running community at large. Furthermore, Running has an undeniable positive and HEALTHY influence on society, and most runners are happy to freely spread their running knowledge and positive vibes among their family, peers, community, and on social media. Unfortunately, however, there is also a SEEDY side to Running which sometimes overshadows its wholesomeness, and worrily undermines its integrity. Specifically, I’m referring to those DESPICABLE runners who find it necessary to CHEAT in races in order to give themselves an unfair advantage. The worst part is that cheating and fraud happens almost all the time in the races – from small, unnoticed misdemeanor to glaring, outright deception.
Dato’ Vegiyathuman, KLFTAA (Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory Athletics Association) Secretary General explained that CHEATING in races have been going on since the early days of running events. “That is why it is important that race organisers choose their routes carefully and place adequate checkpoints at strategic locations”, he said.
Mr S.P. Wong, Race Director of Pacers Sport, said that some shifty runners have been caught joining his races only at the halfway point, and afterwards, they have even tried to fraudulently claim the winners cash prizes. Mr Wong added, “When, we tell the offending runners that they have been DISQUALIFIED for cheating, they sheepishly say ‘sorry’ and quickly disappear from the scene.
This case sounds similar to a full marathoner who was caught cheating at SCKLM 2018 because he missed many of the checkpoints, and only to appear again running across the finish line with a too-good-to-be-true timing which could only be possible if he had helped from a time machine!
TEMPESTUOUS TIMING CHIPS
The introduction of computerised timing chip system and automated checkpoints have effectively assisted event organisers track down many CHEATERS and rule-breakers, but it has not totally deterred certain unscrupulous runners from trying to OUTSMART the computerised timing system and claiming their finisher medal or finisher Tee even when they have clearly not earned it.
When Runners MISUSE the timing chip, it creates an administrative headache for the organiser as Race Director, Mr. Parim Paramasivam of M Sports recalled, “There was one non-elite runner who crossed the finish line wearing 5 different timing chip bibs which all beeped simultaneously, and I can only guess that he did it in order to collect the finisher medals and T-shirts for himself and the other 4 bib owners who had not raced”.
Dato’ Vegiyathuman explained,”When runners cannot complete the race in full or within the cut-off time, these DISQUALIFIED runners in Malaysia, typically feel that they are still entitled to the medals and other finisher goodies because they argue that they have paid for the registration fees, regardless if the race terms and conditions specified otherwise. So, to KEEP the runners happy, they can still collect the medals from us, unless the medals are limited. However, they definitely cannot receive any finisher certification”.
Purist runners often scorn at those disqualified runners who collect medals, and accuse them of lacking principles and belittling the hard efforts of other runners who earned their medals genuinely. On the opposite side, there is another group of runners who argue that the medals have already been paid for, and it is better to give out all the medals to avoid unnecessary waste. Even more calculative are those runners, who only turn-up on race day and collect their goodies without running at all.
Another BANE for organisers are runners who use other people’s running bibs to enter races, and they are commonly referred to as “ghost runners”. There is even an online BLACK MARKET where runners who fail to register for races on time, can purchase someone else’s bib at a mutually agreed price and conditions. This a big BREACH of the race rules because the name of the original bib owner and their personal data such as emergency contacts is already fixed in the computer database. Not only will the ghost runner be using a FAKE identity, but it will also become a big safety issue if the ghost runner faints, collapses unconscious or is involved in a serious ACCIDENT during the race because the organiser will not be able to contact quickly the injured runner’s real family members for medical emergencies.
According to Race Director Parim, “The competitive runners will often wait to assess the field of COMPETITION and their chances of winning prizes before registering for races, but when they wait too long, and MISS the registration closing date, they may try to obtain someone else’s bib”.
PRICE OF CHEATING
It is rare for Race Directors to take any predetermined action against runners who are caught breaking race rules, unless maybe when the event is a high-profile or an international marathon and the winner’s paychecks are extraordinarily high in order to deter others from cheating and to protect the good image of the event and their sponsors.
The harshest penalty ever meted out to a ghost runner was a 10-year ban which was imposed by the Organiser Committee of the Penang Bridge International Marathon on a famous elite runner who foolishly tried to claim the lucrative prize money under a “borrowed” race bib.
There is a worrying trend in running events of placing too much emphasis on profit-taking by the organisers. At the same time, more runners are joining races not so much for the personal satisfaction of completing races, but rather as a way to gain publicity and more “likes” on social media.
When incentives and motivation for organising runs and for participating in these organised runs are based on accumulation of wealth and self-glorification respectively, the wrong kind of image and message of running is being passed unto the impressionable younger and new runners. Alas, cheating and foul-play can be tolerated or overlooked by runners and the running community in a toxic environment which is devoid of true principles, high morality and good sportsmanship.
RETURN OF THE INNOCENCE
As we have seen from recent history, having race rules and regulations are meaningless if the organisers don’t enforce them strictly, and the situation is further exacerbated by irresponsible runners who continue to disrespect the sanctity of running.
The Running Community needs to take one step back and remind themselves that there is no better non-political and inclusive platform as Running to spread important HUMAN moral and spiritual values for the BETTERMENT of individuals, societies and nations..
To the best of my knowledge, all of the information provided herein is accurate at the time of publishing and the views expressed are based on my own personal opinions and findings, and they don’t necessarily reflect the views of the Product Manufacturer, Event Organiser or any Third Party unless explicitly specified otherwise.
About The Author
Gus Ghani is the Founder of Running Toons and a HIIT Fitness Coach, and Magazine Columnist. He has contributed numerous insightful articles to The Star newspaper, Running Malaysia Magazine, and Cycling Malaysia Magazine. LIKE Happy Runner for RUNNING UPDATES, Gus Rider for CYCLING NEWS, Gus Ghani for SPORTS INFOTAINMENT and FOLLOW gusghani @IG for LIFESTYLE.
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