There’s no turning back once you’ve cheated your way into marathon infamy.
To many, the third Monday of April is just your average Monday. To some, that day is known as Patriots Day. But to Bostonians, it’s known as Marathon Monday.
The marathon is filled with inspirational people, whether it be Kathrine Switzer, the first female to complete the Boston Marathon, or Jose Luis Sanchez, a U.S. marine who lost his left leg while serving in Afghanistan.
It takes skill and determination to simply qualify for the race itself. You must be at least 18 years old and must complete a standard marathon course before the Boston Marathon and finish it within a certain amount of time. People train for months to prepare for this race that is a total of 26 miles and 385 yards.
Many stories of people helping one another, people triumphing over obstacles, and people coming together to encourage the participants are highlighted during this time.
The onlookers focus on the #BostonStrong aspect of the day. But there’s something people don’t talk about as much. They talk about it, but probably not enough.
If you’re going to cheat, at least be smart about it. Are the bragging rights really worth it if you didn’t actually earn it and if you know you took the spot of someone who actually deserved it; someone who trained in the rain, the snow, the wind, the heat?
Rosie Ruiz is the most infamous cheater of all time, allegedly riding the MBTA to cut her time back in 1980. She was declared the winner of the female category for the 84th Boston Marathon until the title was stripped from her eight days later.
With the 42.195 km to cover, there’s a high temptation to hop on the train or call an Uber to a certain point before resuming the run. However, people are cheating not only in the race itself, but even to qualify for it as well. To prevent cheaters, runners are required to wear a tracking chip, cross timing mats along the way, and get their picture taken at the finish line.
Some people offer to run either to qualify someone else for the Boston Marathon, or to run the marathon for them so that person gets to brag on social media without having to run the race. Others, such as a couple who ran the Philadelphia Marathon to qualify for the Boston one, switch the trackers in their bibs.
Regardless of the chosen method, because there are people who choose to cheat, many qualifiers are unable to participate in the race. According to NBC Boston, last year there were about 5,000 legitimate runners who were turned away because there wasn’t enough room for them.
The penalty for cheating is disqualification for the year or to be completely banned for life. But with that comes the guilt, shame, and defamation as well. Some people such as Gregory Price who claimed to have run the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon in 3:17:47, placing second in the 60-to-64-year-old age group, giving sappy stories as to why they cheated. Referring to Price, the Boston Globe stated,
“There’s so much pressure going on when you were a good runner and then you get older and you’re not as fast anymore. He said he couldn’t take the pressure.”
Then don’t run. No one is putting that pressure on you, Price.
Some people such as Mike Rossi never admit to cheating. He ran the 2014 Lehigh Valley Marathon in 3:11:45 but was not seen in any of the marathon’s seven photographic checkpoints.
The Boston Marathon bombing happened only four years ago. At least two survivors ran the race this year. These are people representing what the hashtag “Boston Strong” really means; not those cheating their way just to qualify.
Those who cheat don’t deserve the cheers and kisses from the crowds that they so willingly receive. They don’t deserve the pride and glory that comes with crossing that finish line.
The day is one to be celebrated by all. Not only is the marathon the longest held race in the nation, but there’s even more meaning to it ever since the bombing. Each story is a story of triumph, telling those who just want to watch the world burn that Boston will not burn. The runners triumph over fear, pain, and intimidation.
Cheaters aren’t allowed to say they’ve triumphed over anything. They aren’t allowed to join in on this battle cry.