Amateur cheats

Ahead of the recent New York marathon, an article in The Guardian newspaper made me laugh. It was about amateurs cheating in marathons. It reminded me of when I ran took part in the London marathon and an enterprising young fellow offered to lend me his anorak for a tenner – or was it a fiver? – to nip through a short-cut and avoid running around Docklands.

When I declined his kind offer, he inferred that there were plenty happy to avail themselves of it. I had pointed out that it would’ve been cheating, plus everyone who knows me would have treated my time with disbelief. Instead I had an entertaining day out and even more amusing tales to tell.

Cheating is not limited to marathons. On my first cycling sportif, slowly riding the shorter of two distances, unbeknown to me, I had fallen behind the broom wagon. When I arrived at the feed station, along with a number of riders doing the longer course, it was assumed I too was riding it. I corrected their false assumption and one rider asked why I’d done that as my club would’ve got more points if I’d “completed” the longer ride. I advised him it was cheating and no one at the club would’ve believed I’d completed the longer one.

On another sportif around Monaco and Menton, the organisers used volunteers to block off a number of side roads. When I’d stopped to enquire why I was told that the roads were short-cuts and if they weren’t blocked inevitably some people would cheat!

Needless to stay I find it somewhat staggering that participants would cheat in an event where the whole point is taking part: there are no individual winners. It was only as I started to help with the organisation of our club’s sportif, I rumbled yet another wheeze perpetuated by a number of clubs.

Sportif: Club Volunteers

Most sportifs offer two different courses. Clubs earn one point for everyone doing the shorter event and two for those completing the longer. As these aren’t timed events, the points for each club are typically calculated on the number of participants. As both events are similarly priced, clubs would enter more riders into the longer event though many would only ride the shorter one. I soon nipped this in the bud and awarded points based solely on the length of the course completed.

With this level of skull duggery at local amateur events, where club and personal honour rather than grand sums of money are at stake, is it any wonder that further up the food chain there’s much more sophisticated cheating?