Do Cheaters Diminish Our Achievements?
Yesterday, a friend shared a link to a website dedicated towards catching runners who cheat their way into the Boston Marathon in a Facebook group that I'm apart of. First and foremost, I have to say that I don't understand the motivation behind cheating during a race. I don't understand why anyone would want to cheat their way into the Boston Marathon when the entire point of qualifying for Boston is personal achievement. (So if you're a cheater, shoot me an email. I really just want to pick your brain.)
I misunderstood my friend's words. He wrote that he hoped he never saw any of us on the site and I assumed that he meant that he hoped none of us were associated with the website. I now think he may have meant that he hopes he never saw us cheating. I thought the former because it was obvious that none of us would cheat our way into Boston. I don't think I know anyone who cares that much (and also not enough) to cheat. I commented that I was embarrassed for everyone on the website because I find the community within the running world that leads these witch hunts and publicly shames bib swappers and cheaters equally disappointing. Race officials hire people to find course cutters, bib swappers, and cheaters. If you know someone cheated, why not just contact the race officials directly? (And who has time to investigate this sort of thing and curate a website about it if it's not your job? Between training to BQ, keeping Run, Selfie, Repeat alive, filming and editing vlogs, trying to stay in control on my email, and trying to feed myself, I don't have time to see my friends or date other humans so PLEASE tell me where your free time is coming from. Seriously. I would love to hear how you have so much free time. Here's my email, Info@SheCanAndSheDid.com)
My biggest issue is the online persecution and honestly, I take it personally. When I ran the 2014 NYC Half Marathon, the race that I went viral at, I bought a bib. I was about to break up with the guy I was seeing and we were fighting about something, I was miserably surviving my first winter (which just so happened to be the worst one NYC had had in DECADES), I felt worthless and just wanted to run with the community that made me feel good about myself. I didn't plan on going viral and I didn't realize at the time that buying a bib was frowned upon. Today I understand why it's such a big deal. Buying a bib can be really dangerous. If something happens to a runner on the course and race officials can't identify who they are, they put everyone at risk. It sounds silly and I know most of us think "that will never happen to me" but I've seen it happen more times than I can count. It can and does happen and swapping bibs puts race officials who may be trying to save someone's life in a really dangerous situation. And people cheat which is also just stupid. Just don't swap or buy bibs.
But back to why I don't agree with these online witch hunts, I was crucified online by these running websites and message boards because I had bought a bib. When I did an interview with Runner's World, they asked me if I bandit-ed the race. I had no clue what that meant and I stupidly said yes. People online wrote that they hoped I broke my leg and never ran again, killed myself, and said that I was an embarrassment to the running world. Which is more embarrassing, that I bought a bib and took selfies during a half marathon or someone writing online that they hoped I kill myself? Obviously, the disappointing human who thought it was acceptable to tell me that they hoped I killed myself because I bought a bib. So when I see sites like that one, I can't help but feel disappointed in everyone involved because these sites are a breeding ground for an equally scummy portion of the running world.
What really made me think was the response to my comment by a friend of mine who I not only respect and look up to, but who is one of the nicest guys in the world. We have differing opinions on the site and what he said made me think. He said that the cheaters are diminishing my accomplishment and hard work to BQ and that they are taking spots away from people who rightfully earn their way into Boston. I 100% agree that it's unjust for someone who cheats or cheats the system to steal a spot rightfully earned by someone else. I agree that it's important they are caught and punished but I don't agree that their cheating diminishes my achievement.
I'm not trying to BQ to be impressive or to be able to boast about my accomplishment. I'm trying to BQ to prove to myself that I'm not a quitter and that I'm stronger than I give myself credit for. It's 100% for me and me alone. Someone else robbing themselves of that accomplishment doesn't diminish mine, it just makes them a disappointing cheater. It's sad that they don't believe in themselves enough to work for it. I feel bad for them. But their decision to cheat doesn't in any way, shape, or form have any reflection on my accomplishment or hard work.
I think that the most dangerous thing you can do while you're chasing any sort of goal is to do it for someone else. I think it needs to be personal and it needs to have huge stakes that keep you fighting when the doubts and discomfort set in and you start to question why you're making the sacrifices you're making. And I'm not saying you can't have other motivating factors. A huge motivating factor for me and my BQ attempt is Save The Children, the charity I'm raising money for and all the kids I want to support. Another motivating factor for me is all of you. Knowing that you're out there with me chasing down impossible goals as well in addition to supporting me every painful step of the way motivates me to fight when I want to give up. But my main motivation is personal and it gets me out of bed every single morning.
Moral of the story, don't cheat and maybe do more with your time than participating in online witch hunts. Your words have power and I understand the disappointment and frustration but funnel it into your training. All you can do is focus on being the best version of yourself. And if you see something, say something. Just say something to someone in charge and not on a website or message board.