Fitness Writer Cheats Her Way to a Near-Record Half Marathon. Here’s How She Got Caught.

Running culture is a definite rare breed all its own. Runners can find races almost every weekend on the calendar – in fact, my sister and brother-in-law are running a half marathon at Disney World this weekend.

Jane Seo, a 24-year old fitness writer based in New York City, has written articles like  as “How I Learned to Love Running, One Race at a Time” and “Four Reasons Why I Keep Running Obstacle Races, One After Another” at the Huffington Post. She finished in second at last weekend’s Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon with an impressive time of an hour and 21 minutes, just over 15 minutes shy of the world women’s record.

But as people started to take a closer look at Seo’s time, her impressive feat began to unravel. Official race timer Josh Stern noted that Seo ran faster near the end of the race than she did at first, which is highly unusual. Stern mentioned the anomaly to race director Matt Lorraine, who dismissed Stern’s concerns.

And then Ohio-based blogger Derek Murphy entered the picture.

Murphy, a former distance runner himself, has dedicated his time away from work trying to bust cheating road warriors by using the 21st century’s best tools: data collected in our interconnected world. He posts his findings to his blog, Marathon Investigation, which he maintains from his home in Ohio.

Murphy tells the story of his sleuthing at his blog. He notes that Seo input her results on Strava, an app where runners and cyclists post times, manually rather than letting a tracker monitor her times. That’s where he began to doubt Seo’s story.

She had this labeled as a run, and the total time *almost* matches her original time for the 1/2 marathon. The cadence data is more consistent with what you would expect on a bike ride, not a run. Also, through the Flyby screen, I was able to confirm that she actually covered this course in the afternoon – long after the race was complete.

There’s more: Murphy noticed that Seo wore a Garmin fitness tracker in the race photos, so he purchased the high resolution versions and zoomed in on the face of the tracker – only to discover that the distance she covered was only 11.65 miles, nearly a mile and a half short of a half-marathon.

Seo was busted. As Murphy writes:

She had the opportunity to come clean after crossing the finish line. Instead, she doubled down with the deceit. She approached race officials and other runners defending her time. They did not approach her. She proactively went to them. She did attend the awards ceremony to collect her 2nd place award.

Once the jig was up, race officials disqualified Seo, and she posted on Instagram (later deleted):

I made a HORRIBLE choice at the Ft. Lauderdale Half Marathon on Sunday, Feb. 20. I wasn’t feeling well so I CUT THE COURSE and headed to the finish line. I got swept away in the moment and pretended I ran the entire course, when in fact I CHEATED and should have DISQUALIFIED myself.

The running team Seo ran with has also disqualified her, and she appears to have deleted her social media accounts. So the lesson here is pretty clear: in our internet age, even an intrepid cheater will eventually be called out.


The Run

I needed to.

I did.

I ran today at the river. 90 degree heat. It was great. Actually, at the river, it’s probably 5 – 10 degrees cooler along the water and in the shade.

I sprinted for a minute and walked for a minute up the trail and back. I feel great for doing it.

Yes I Ran

I started off last night. Five minutes in I thought my ear was going to explode. I have a sinus infection that is quite painful.

Anyway, though Wednesday was my run day, I got up this morning, got Evelyn to day care, Christy out the door, my morning work load whittled down, and did the 15 minutes I should have done last night. By the time it was over I was sure I would die. I couldn’t wear myE3c’s because my ear hurts pretty bad.

But I feel accomplished. I shall have that iPod.

So I’m Running Again

At one point in my life, before I discovered $4.00 pitcher night in law school, I could actually run and spend the night at LSU shooting pool and hitting on Chi Omega sisters with my friends who went to LSU. Then, after spending three years of Friday nights at Buffalos in a weekly “private retreat” with several of my law school buddies, I discovered the literal gravy train, or biscuit wagon, that is my wife — the world’s greatest cook.

So, though I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, I am for losing weight. Working in D.C. for a year was fantastic because I didn’t have a car and walked everywhere. I lost a good chunk of weight, even with the all nighters with my roommate sipping bourbon and smoking cigars while watching the planes take off over the Potomac from DCA.

Tonight I started running again. I bought some new shoes this evening. I was going for Nikes, but the Academy Sports guy convinced me Asics were better running shoes and $40.00 less than the Nikes. I’m usually a New Balance guy and have never worn this brand before. (11 1/2″ Asics Duomax in Blue/Gold)

In any even, tonight I started. I did 1.3 miles in 20 minutes with a 5 minute warm up at 3.5 mph and then shifting 60 seconds of running at 6 mph, then downshifting to a walk of 3 mph, rotating on through to 20 minutes. I’ll do that MWF of this week, before going up. I’m using an 8 week program that Christy found and was using. Supposedly, at the end of 8 weeks, I’ll be doing 3 miles in 30 minutes.

I doubt I’ll do that, but I do know that if I keep this up for 8 weeks I’ll be buying me a new iPod Nano — black — and the Nike running kit. Until then, I’ll use my 3G iPod to the best of its abilities. I’m gotten myself a good running playlist:

Jars of Clay: Dead Man
Gnarls Barkley: Crazy
Sum 41: Over My Head
Jimmy Eat World: A Praise Chorus
Flickerstick: Teenage Dope Fiend
The Kilers: When You Were Young
Secret Machines: Nowhere Again

Good beats all of them.

And now it’s off to have a bit of the brownies I just heard Christy pull out of the oven!