DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
A friend has been claiming she ran a particular marathon. The problem is: I'm fairly certain she didn't actually run it, certainly not the whole thing. She has since claimed a time, a time that doesn't show up on the race results. She had a number on, but the number doesn't register with the results, and there is no record of her having registered. Her name shows up nowhere on the race results. I'm pretty sure she just jumped on the course at some point, and took the medal and all the congrats and the credit for which most runners train months. I can't for the life of me figure out why she would do this. I'm not saying I'm going to rat her out, but shouldn't this stuff matter?
All these "facts" seem a little vague to me, so maybe it is best I address a few separate but related general issues.
Personally, I don't think anyone should be running in a race without officially entering for all the obvious reasons: They didn't register, so race officials don't know who they are if they get hurt; they didn't pay; race officials haven't communicated with them; race officials can't plan for them; and it is not fair to the race or to all those other participants in the race who officially registered and paid. In Boston, we call these people "bandits.”
One thing is for sure: If she, in fact, was not officially registered, she should not have taken the finisher's medal, even if she did run the entire way (which, by your account, she may not have even done that).
You indicate that she had a bib number on, but as far as you can tell, she wasn't officially registered. If she didn't have a correct race bib number on (let's assume for the moment she did not), then she should not have been handed a medal. You might at least write to the race director and suggest the race be more vigilant in who they distribute medals to at the finish. However, in defense of those handing out medals, finishers are coming fast and furious at them, and if someone has a number on, they assume it is the current race bib number and hand the person a medal.
Now, given that she wasn't officially entered as you say, and thus she didn't skew the results, I'm not sure what "ratting" on her will accomplish. Obviously, race officials can't disqualify her if she wasn't officially registered.
I suppose the more general question would be, if a race director can prove that someone ran as a bandit in their race one year, should that runner, if they can be truly identified, be "banned" from officially ever entering that race in the future?
Each race director would have to decide for himself or herself what their event’s policy is on this. I don't think I have ever heard of a situation where this actually happened, but that doesn't mean it hasn't. If the intent in "reporting" her is to disclose her actions to the race and to the running public, that would be a personal, moral decision you would have to make, taking into account your friendship and the fact that you’re not totally sure what happened.
Not that I would turn my head on all of these situations, but since she wasn't officially entered and did not appear in the results, you can't accuse her of "cheating,” only of taking credit for doing something she perhaps didn't do. If she was officially registered for the race, did not complete the entire race, and appeared in the results, that would be cheating, and she for sure should be reported.
In this particular case, I would probably just "let her conscience be her guide" and drop it. But I know, from reading similar stories more fraudulent than this one, that many of these people don't have a conscience to begin with, and therein lies the bigger problem.