Several Honolulu Marathon runners accused of cheating

Several Honolulu Marathon runners accused of cheating
Published: Dec. 16, 2016 at 10:24 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2016 at 1:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - About 22,000 runners crossed the starting line at this year's Honolulu Marathon, and nearly 21,000 of them finished.

But a website is raising serious allegations of course cutting for at least eight racers.

The Honolulu Marathon is the fourth-largest marathon in the United States, and runners come from all over the world to participate.

Unlike many courses that start at point A and end at point B, the Honolulu Marathon course is out and back. And especially along Kalanianaole Highway, runners will be going one way as they pass people going in the other direction.

Officials admit this makes the course easy to cut, but that doesn't mean it's easy to get away with cheating.

"The Honolulu Marathon is an easy course to turn around on," said Dr. Jim Barahal, Honolulu Marathon CEO and founder. "The technology that is involved with running and these large marathons makes it nearly impossible to really cheat. You're going to get caught."

Timing chips with radio frequencies are embedded into every racer's bib and their time is logged at each split -- every five kilometers -- when they pass over a timing mat.

Officials say it's pretty hard to miss a mat; you'd really have to avoid it or step off the course.

A website called Marathon Investigation has reviewed the finishing times of all the racers who logged times that qualifies them for the Boston Marathon, considered one of the most prestigious races a runner can participate in.

And the website identifies 13 runners who finished the Honolulu Marathon with Boston Qualifying times, but only highlights eight racers -- who either achieved exceptional results by placing in their age group or are claiming that they ran the distance by appearing with finishers' medals.

The in-depth analysis goes through each of the racers split times.

In one case, a person ran 30 kilometers in under 50 minutes -- that would have to be at a pace of 2:36 a mile. Another racer was running 14 minutes per mile for the first 15 kilometers and then suddenly started clocking a 3:49 minute per mile pace for the remainder of the course.

Marathon officials say even before they received information from outside sources, the racers in question had already been disqualified as a result of the internal review of their timing finishes.

It's not like medals are taken away or they're banned from future races. They're removed from the timing database and therefore if they're trying to use the course as a qualifier for Boston -- and that seems to be the main issue -- then they will not be able to do that.

There is an appeals process for someone who thinks they've been wrongfully disqualified.

"It happens, and so we deal with it, and I think we deal with it appropriately. It's not what the marathon is about, but we understand the importance of the integrity of the results and the timing system," Barahal said.

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