Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Let’s Turn to Our Fact-Checkers

I’ve been paying as much attention to the local and national political races as I can stomach, and finding many ways to amuse myself while simultaneously shake my head. The current state of our electoral process is downright deplorable in more ways than I care to mention. The gross amounts of money spent, the pandering and false promises, the hateful tactics and advertising, and the shallow and anti-intellectual discussion of incredibly important issues are just a few of the concerns I see emerging. One of the more amusing results of the current election season is the emergence of a new career choice for journalists and other political watch-dog groups: “fact checker”.

Clearly this is not the first time that candidates have stretched the truth during their campaigns while trying to garner votes, but this is certainly the most we’ve ever heard about it. I find it quite ironic that in such an incredibly advanced digital age where information is accessible at the click of a mouse, candidates still think they can get away with blatantly misleading the public or outright lying to them. Sadly, the lack of critical thinking skills in this country means we more often than not do let them get away with it, and then proceed to puppet those lies and perpetuate the mistruths. I can’t help but think about the film “Liar, Liar” with Jim Carrey, and wonder what would happen if all political candidates for office were required to get a shot which psychologically or biologically made them incapable of lying. What would our debates look like then?

What a difference it would make!

Now, it isn’t just lying about larger issues such as campaign platform planks that get candidates in trouble. This season, questionable marathon claims have also landed a candidate in the spotlight. If there is one thing that will get a runner riled up, it’s lying about finishing times or races run! To be fair, he certainly isn’t the first political figure to make questionable marathon claims. In a sense, these claims, though not unique to politicians, are just one more example of a cultural of individualism and the importance of success at all costs. I’d go so far as to say that outright lying about finishing a race is worse than banditting a race. You may not be taking away resources from those folks that paid for a race, but you are minimizing the accomplishments of those individuals that did train for months to prepare for the race!

All of this thinking about “altering” the details of a race has me thinking more and more about some of the most famous cheaters in marathon history. There are no doubt plenty of folks that go undetected during every marathon. In fact, in some of the larger races, I’ve often looked around and thought about how easy it would be to simply jump in the last few miles, splash your face first, and cross the finish line and claim your medal. Although I’d never do it, there is no doubt that folks do. However, I’m always amazed at the stories of folks who not only find creative ways to cheat, but then attempt to “finish” towards the front of the pack, which of course sends more scrutiny their way until their fraud is discovered.

Rosie Ruiz, the most famous marathon cheater, @ Boston

The site Mental Floss has a great list of some of the best frauds in the history of the sport. One of my favorite stories bring our topic for the day back full circle:

5. Blow off the Checkpoints: Roberto Madrazo (Berlin, 2007)

Roberto Madrazo, 2006 Mexican Presidential hopeful, was no stranger to scandal; his Institutional Revolutionary Party had a reputation for election fraud. So it came as little surprise that his spectacular finishing time in the 2007 Berlin Marathon was a sham. Finishing at 2:41:12 initially won Madrazo his age group. However, the electronic chips runners wear to monitor their pace revealed he skipped two checkpoints – and “ran” nine miles in only 21 minutes. He was disqualified.

Interestingly enough, a cheating story even emerged at the end of the Sioux Falls Marathon this year, which I ran…and PR’d in. I can assure you that I ran the whole course. How would you react if you found out someone lied about finishing or running a race?

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