Why do athletes lie about their times? What little piece of an athlete’s ego allows them to believe that it’s ok to just make up their times and cheat—especially in this day and age of chip timing?! Are they afraid they aren’t fast enough? Are they afraid people will judge them and say, “ooohhh…that’s slow…what happened?” Are they trying to be super human?
We saw a story earlier this week about a politician from Mexico who ran the Berlin Marathon in a speedy 2:40. His finish line photo above showed a victorious expression, arms raised in the air, and the look of someone who had run the race of his life. Turns out, he cheated and cut the course short. His previous best before that was a more average and “normal” 3:44. While not impossible, it’s pretty hard to imagine cutting an hour off of your previous marathon best! What made him cheat? I don’t know if he’s trying to make excuses about not knowing or ACCIDENTALLY missing a turn, but I’ve run in enough marathons to know that unless you’re leading the race, it’s damn near impossible to get lost!! (It’s also near impossible to win wearing tights, a jacket and other “winterized” gear)
I first became a personal “victim” to this deceit after the 2004 NYC Marathon. I was running it with a person from Austin who I didn’t know very well. However, we hung out and shared our hopes and goals for this race. He was really hoping to do a sub-4:00. That evening after we all hooked up to eat and drink, he was in a pissy mood because his knee was hurting. He decided to stay in the hotel while we went out and whooped it up. I was shocked that he wasn’t happy about the 3:58 he told me he ran. I ran a 4:10 that year and was jealous of him! It wasn’t until a few days later when I was checking times for others that I decided to plug in his name…You are kidding…It was almost a 5:00 hr marathon. Why did he lie? Why couldn’t he just be honest and say he was hurt and it wasn’t his day? Why did it bug him so much that I beat him and, more importantly, why did he care so much?
I’ve also recently experienced a couple of other similar instances. One of Shawn’s colleagues is an avid marathoner and he was talking to her about one of her recent marathons. She told him one time and it turns out she was conveniently 20 minutes slower than her stated time. Now, not only do marathoners rarely get lost on a course, but they also NEVER forget their finishing times. I’ve done 10 marathons and can tell you every time (rounded down, of course, to the nearest minute…that’s another blog unto itself…the fact that we always round down our times!) I know she didn’t forget that her chip time was 20 minutes slower than what she said. Most recently, Shawn had another run-in with ANOTHER colleague who had done the Longhorn Triathlon last week. They were talking about how difficult it was and his colleague mentioned that his wife ended up in the med-tent while he did a 3:05 bike split. Once again, after a little fact checking (because now it’s a game), not only did he lie about his bike split by 10 minutes, but he also failed to mention that he also DNF’ed the race.
The question is more hypothetical , but again I ask, “Why would someone lie about their finishing time when every result and split is now instantaneously posted on the web? “
I guess we project the self-defeat that we feel onto others. We assume that since we’re upset and disappointed with our times, that everyone who knows us will also be disappointed or judgmental. We assume that, as well-trained, athletes, we’re not allowed to have “a bad day” or a slower time. For heaven’s sake, not every race can continue to be a PR froom the last one! Every course is different, every race is different, every weather condition is different. Just ask the Chicago Marathoners this year. The winner certainly didn’t set any PRs. Think he was disappointed?
I have to admit, I fight the exact same battles that I’m writing about. I was a little disappointed in my time at last week’s race and immediately thought, “People will look at my run time and wonder why I bonked.” I started to question myself…Am I getting slower? What happened? Why didn’t you place in the Top 10? But you know what? I didn’t lie. It was insanely hot and the course was incredibly difficult. (Besides, I actually finished 11th in my age group–not bad!)
And now, I’m putting it out there that I’m planning on running the Columbus Marathon next Sunday as a TRAINING RUN for the Sunmart 50k Trail race in December. It is just that…a training run. No PR attempts, no Boston Qualifiers, just a 26.2 mile practice run in my hometown. The struggle is internal. Most of it is convincing MYSELF that it’s ok to run slow. I don’t want people to wonder why I went from a 3:29 marathon to a 4:00 marathon. Weird, huh? It used to be finishing a marathon was the biggest accomplishment of my life and now I’m using a marathon as a training run for an even longer race. Isn’t that good enough???
It might not be my fastest race ever, but I promise that I won’t lie about my finishing time.