A Marathon of Cheats: The Scandal of the Mexico City Marathon

September 07, 2023


Over the past 24 hours, the internet has been a wash with news around the Mexico City Marathon which is frankly, infuriating for those who understand the real essence of long-distance running. A staggering 11,000 out of 30,000 runners were disqualified from the marathon for cheating. As someone who takes immense pride in clocking my own times, whether they are good or bad, it is beyond comprehension why someone would cheat in a marathon. 

What Happened?

First, the facts: The marathon, held on August 27, 2023, disqualified more than a third of its runners. Cheating tactics included using cars, bikes, and public transport, often revealed by missed checkpoints along the 42.195-kilometre course. The Mexico City Marathon is not some small-town weekend race; it holds the World Athletics Gold Label Status, a designation given to events with the strictest standards for planning, organisation, and delivery. Yet, this was not an isolated event; a similar scandal occurred in 2017 and 2018, disqualifying 6,000 and 3,090 runners, respectively.

Why Does It Matter?

Running a marathon is not just about getting from Point A to Point B. It's a journey—physical, emotional, and sometimes even spiritual. I can't even begin to describe the range of emotions I had when I finished my first marathon in Vienna, it is literally life changing. Each step taken is a mark of your will, resilience, and dedication, or sometimes just how stubborn you truly are. A marathon is an act of defiance against what people believe your body is able to do. When you cheat, you aren't fooling anyone but yourself. You are robbing yourself of the most fundamental experience of personal triumph and growth. It's as if you're proclaiming, "I don't believe in my own capabilities". I have walked the from half way on more than 1 marathon as I just simply hadn't trained, but I took pride in the walk to the finish, taking in the sense of occasion, what it was I was achieving. These cheats, clowns, cowards, should have stayed in bed. Well done, you got a tshirt and a goodie bag...

The Support System and The Betrayal

As a runner, I know how crucial the role of a support system is. I am lucky to run with a friend from my time in Paddy Power who tells me more often than not how crazy my plans are. As recently as Saturday, he was almost shouting me across the finish line for a training run of 21K. Clongriffin Runners also, a fantastic support system with each runner helping the person beside them under the stewardship of Pat. Every club has the same heros. What's incomprehensible is how a runner, backed by family, friends, or even a professional team, could justify cheating to them. It's a betrayal of trust, hard work, and shared dreams. Why put all those people through the hassle of helping you train, to throw it away.

The Technology and The Excuses

Some runners claim that their trackers were faulty, arguing that they did pass through the checkpoints but their trackers failed to record it. This argument holds as much water as a sieve. In today's world, race organizers are employing advanced mass timing detection systems. These are not toys but sophisticated pieces of technology designed to uphold the sanctity of the sport. It's easy to hide behind faulty technology, but even that can't mask the unsportsmanlike conduct of thousands.

The Spirit of Competition

Let's talk about the term "World Athletics Gold Label Status" again. The accolade itself underscores that the event is more than just a competition; it is an "occasion to reaffirm the transcendental values of sport," as the organizers put it. If nearly one-third of the participants are willing to tarnish that, it raises questions not just about the integrity of the runners but also about the collective consciousness that surrounds these events. Mexico is used to this. Perhaps they need guard rails to keep them on the course!

They're Only Cheating Themselves

Here's the final kicker: There's no real benefit to this cheating. Sure, you might walk away with a medal you didn't earn, but at what cost? The cost of your own integrity, the cost of the sport's credibility, and the cost of everyone who genuinely wants to assess themselves through this marathon. A marathon is a mirror that reflects who you are when you cross the finish line. If you cheat, all you see is a distorted image of yourself, one that will haunt you more than any poor finishing time ever could.

Has this been a bit of a rant? Yes, it has. To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement. I'm bewildered, flabbergasted, and angered. But most importantly, I'm saddened. Saddened by the thought that the sacred journey of a marathon could be reduced to mere shortcuts and unethical games. What happened at the Mexico City Marathon serves as a cautionary tale, a dark cloud over the soul of long-distance running. It's time for some serious reflection—not just among the disqualified but among all of us who run, literally and metaphorically, in the marathon of life.

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