As many as 258 marathon runners were caught cheating during last week’s Shenzhen Half-Marathon. It’s like as if they didn’t know that there are TV cameras on every corner. Organizers of the marathon have said that the 258 runners will face sanctions for cheating as well as being banned from ever participating again.
18 runners were found wearing fake bibs and 3 were running on behalf of other people. Xinhua quoted organizers as saying: “We deeply regret the violations that occurred during the event. Marathon running is not simply exercise, it is a metaphor for life, and every runner is responsible for him or herself.” Moreover, the other 237 runners were caught by traffic cameras and bystanders taking shortcuts.
The marathon was 21 kms long. The runners had taken a shortcuts which cut the marathon length by almost 10%. Apparently, they took a turn almost 1 km before a U-turn which shaved off 2-3 kms from the run. Footage shows runners cutting through bushes that separated two parts of the course. However, organizers have stated that these runners will face a ban of 2 years. The other runners with fake bibs could face a lifetime ban.
Runners who absolutely love running are still short in supply. It is deeply shameful that the participants could not respect the sporting spirit. The fourth biggest city of China attracts a 16,000 strong crowd every year for the run. Marathons in China are growing by the year and it has become extremely popular in the country. The numbers have increased from just 22 in 2011 to 1,072 this year.
A sharp rise in the number of events in recent years and mass participation has also been blamed for the problem. Only last year, organizers of the Beijing Half-Marathon introduced facial recognition software. This would help in catching people swapping bibs to decrease their run time. A Chinese marathon runner, He Yinli was accused of disrespecting the national flag in an attempt to finish the race faster. Moreover, in the 2015 Boston Marathon, it was reported that 2,439 runners finished the race at least 20 minutes slower than their qualifying times. Furthermore, 29 of the runners swapped bibs and 4 acted as bib mules.
Xinhua added, “No matter the participants or the organizers, they should reflect: What is the significance of participating in and holding marathons? “Don’t run and forget why you run. Don’t let the marathon turn sour.”
By Abhishek Aggarwal