The introduction of the ChampionChip system has proved an invaluable aid in the
detection of runners who do not complete the entire Marathon course. At London
the marathon route makes it quite simple to cut off a significant section as we
use one stretch of road in both directions. Before we started using the Chip we
always believed that a number of runners used this shortcut but now we have
much more evidence in our battle against these sad people.
Immediately after our race each spring we produce a printout of the full
result, including split times at halfway and every 10k. In addition there are
other mats which are used - one that is in place to help our Official
Photographer and another that is positioned on that part of the course which
most cheats would not pass. In addition to these mats we can also call upon the
photographs taken at various parts of the course by our Photographers, and as
these all have a timing device built in to the mechanism it is possible to know
exactly where a runner was, and when. Just in case this does not provide all of
the evidence that we need we also use a couple of video cameras, unannounced,
at strategic points along the route!
We start our check by examining the split times to ensure that they all fit
and make sense. This is a long job, but the ChampionChip system is capable of
highlighting obvious anomalies - which can be a great help. Our examination
usually identifies about 60 possible cheats. We then request copies of the
official photographs for these 60, which can prove either innocence or guilt.
Our photographers usually manage to get shots of over 90% of the field at all
of their locations and therefore the absence of photos often adds to our
After we have examined the photos and the split times we manage to reduce
our list of suspects to around 40 - we then write to these unners explaining
that we cannot trace them along the entire route and asking if there are any
factors that we may not have taken in to consideration. The answers are often
very funny, but also very sad.
Most of those challenged in this way either do not respond, because they are
unable to provide an honest and likely explanation, or offer explanations that
do not bear scrutiny. My Chip came off so I carried it and only put it back on
near the finish - and I had a stitch in the first half which is why I managed
to run the second half in 58.
After a reasonable amount of time we can easily see who did and who did not
cover the full route. Those that did are sent their photographs, those who we
believe cheated receive a letter advising them that they have been removed from
the results and that we would prefer not to receive another entry from them -
usually about 30 people each year.
One big question is why people do try to cheat. We don believe that runners
enter with the intention of cheating.
Our event is a huge fund raising opportunity. We know that last year more
than £25m was raised by our competitors for a wide variety of charities.
The TV audience is massive and nearly everyone who watches the event knows
someone who is competing and trying to raise money for a charity dear to their
hearts. The pressure on the unners to finish is tremendous but few are regular
runners, most have decided that it is time that they did something constructive
in their lives and have undertaken a crash course in the weeks and months
before race day.
During this short, and often painful, preparation many find that they become
injured or sore or sick and they decide not to run on race day. We try to help
this group by holding their entry over until the following year, and thousands
take up this offer. The problem lies with those who don follow this sensible
route, or who run in to difficulties in the last part of their preparation.
They turn up at the start with little chance of reaching the finish and often
make the decision to cut off part of the course when they are under most
Do we have a responsibility to remove these people from the results, should
we make some sort of announcement that they have been caught cheating or should
we just quietly remove them from the results and let them come to terms with
their own conscience - We have chosen the latter course, rightly or
Flora London Marathon