This past Monday, a 29-year-old Kenyan, Robert Cheruiyot, bested the field of 25,000 runners to win his third consecutive Boston Marathon and his fourth overall. Cheruiyot’s story is inspirational. Overcoming extreme poverty and abandonment as a youth, he became the first Kenyan to ever win four Boston Marathons. I am captivated by his story of triumph. However, I am even more intrigued by an article I read in the New York Times about cheaters.
The Boston Marathon is one of the most difficult marathons to enter. After running became hip in late 1970’s, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) implemented a strict qualifying system. The race has a narrow start and can’t handle as many racers as other marathons. And with stricter rules, come the cheaters.
According to BAA spokesman, Marc Chalufour, some runners qualify for the race and sell their starting spots. The BAA checks sites like eBay and Craigslist for culprits. They recently caught a sale on eBay. They also count on runners to blow the whistle on those not running the straight and narrow. A major problem with those purchasing starting spots is the field is set according to qualifying times. This means a fat hack runner like me, who runs three miles in the time Cheruiyot runs eight, can purchase a spot in the front of the pack. Since I’m twice the size of some of these runners, I may cause some major problems at the beginning of the race.
By limiting the number of qualifiers, the Boston Marathon has become the most prestigious running race. It is the Tour de France of running. By the way, Lance Armstrong ran this year’s race in 2:50:58, more than 40 minutes behind Cheruiyot. But aren’t cheating and capitalism what we, as Americans, stand for. If you can sell a grilled cheese sandwich that exhibits the imprint of Jesus Christ’s face on eBay, why couldn’t you sell your starting place at the marathon? Look, I run local races and I can’t stand those snobby, skinny runners that finish the race and run back on the course and soon pass me on their warm down. Because a stout runner like me could buy a spot in the front of the pack at a race like this, makes life seem a little fairer.
Politicians cheat. Corporations cheat. We know professional athletes cheat. Why can’t the average guy have some fun?