Marathon Course-cutting

Rosie Ruiz

Marathon course-cutting occurs when runners complete less than an entire course of a marathon before going over the finish line. The standard length of a marathon course is 42.195 kilometers, about 26.2 miles. Course-cutting may be intentional or unintentional and can be achieved by various means.

When done intentionally, course-cutting constitutes cheating. In 1904, Frederick Lorz rode a car during the Olympic marathon in St. Louis. Many marathon runners consider course-cutting to be worse than doping, considering that dopers are at least trying to run the entire race.

In October 1979, Rosie Ruiz rode the New York City Subway during the New York City Marathon. In so doing, she qualified for the April 1980 Boston Marathon, and appeared to have won the female category. Her medal was later revoked because she only ran the last half mile of the race (though the discovery that she cut the course in New York would have been enough to disqualify her from Boston as well).

In 2006, the ‘Washington Post’ reported that the seventh- and eighth-place women’s finishers of the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon were disqualified. Rick Nealis, the race director, disqualified 350 runners in the 2005 race.

In 2007 Roberto Madrazo, a Mexican presidential candidate in 2006, had his results invalidated in the Berlin Marathon. According to his timing chip, Madrazo skipped two checkpoints on the course and covered one nine-mile segment in 21 minutes (faster than world-record speed for such a distance).

In 2009, the ‘New York Times’ ran an article on course-cutting, including a map of where about 46 runners in the 2008 New York City Marathon left and reentered the course. ‘An untold number of [course-cutting] runners escape detection, marathon officials said.’ In 2010, the ‘Chicago Tribune’ reported that in ‘the 2009 Chicago Marathon, 252 runners’ times were disqualified, most for missing two or more timing mats in a row.’

In 2014, ‘Runner’s World’ reported that the apparent women’s winner of the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon was disqualified after her splits indicated she had not run the entire race. She appeared to have run the second half of the race in 47:30, which would have far exceeded the then-world record for a man in a half-marathon. Additionally, her past race times were not consistent with her supposed performance in Chickamauga.

In 2015, the ‘New York Times’ reported that the apparent winner of the women’s 40-44 category at Ironman Canada 2015 was disqualified after evidence came to light that showed she had not run the entire race. The second-, third- and fourth-place finishers could not recall seeing her, with the runner-up going as far as to publicly confront the winner and ask when she passed her–an unusual occurrence, according to Ironman Canada’s regional director.

The other athletes conducted their own investigation after race officials rebuffed them, and compiled evidence that indicated that the apparent winner could not possibly have reached specific points at the times she claimed during the marathon segment of the competition. Confronted with this evidence, World Triathlon Corporation disqualified her from Ironman Canada 2015, and also retroactively disqualified her from Ironman Canada 2013 and the 2014 Vancouver Triathlon. It also took the unprecedented step of banning her from all Ironman events indefinitely.

In 2018, ‘The Guardian’ reported that 258 runners in the Shenzhen Half-Marathon were disqualified, most of them for taking shortcuts.

3 Comments to “Marathon Course-cutting”

  1. wow, that’s crazy, I never would have expected this!

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