Welcome back FAB-O friends! 2017 has whizzed right by, hasn’t it? I am writing this on the first week of Spring (hello! Wasn’t it just Christmas?) I am very excited about this blog interview. About a year ago, I heard about Derek Murphy of MarathonInvestigation.com – he was leading the charge to expose marathon cheaters and to keep them out of Boston. My ears perked up! I couldn’t believe there was someone out there who actually cared if someone cheated. I was thrilled, to say the least and through a mutual friend, we “met up” on Facebook.
Since that time, I have observed Derek diligently prove cheating and also prove innocence. A unassuming man who has been thrust into the limelight with huge stories. His blog received national acclaim with a NBC TODAY show segment. I asked Derek to be interviewed as I wanted to share more of the man beyond his revealing blog posts. One can assume that a person who goes after such negativity in this sport would be a negative person. That is not Derek, he genuinely cares about this sport and the runners. He wants to see runners succeed and certainly will stop at nothing to expose the cheaters.
Hope you enjoy the interview!
C: We all know you love number crunching. Can you give us a little bit about your work and education background? Family? Hobbies?
D: My work is mostly number crunching as well…but beyond that I like creating reports and getting behind the number’s to present them in a way that tell a story. I graduated from University of Cincinnati in 1993, and always planned to get my Masters – but that never happened. I was accepted to Law School but chose a different path. My family is everything, been married for almost 23 years, and I have a 5 year old son and 7 year old daughter.
C: What are your hobbies, (besides catching cheaters)?
D: Watching Nick Jr with my kids, helping with First Grade Math (harder than you’d think!), building and playing with Legos with my preschooler, going to soccer games and Tae Kwon Do. We love going to the Museum and the Zoo with the kids. So basically, my family.
C: You say you were once a runner, when was that and what races? Of course, I have to ask, did you suspect anyone was cheating or see anyone cheating?
D: I was too far back, and to concerned about myself. I never noticed anyone cutting the course in front of me
C: The story of Mike Rossi got you interested in looking at race results but the post on Gia Alvarez is what got the public’s attention. What was your first thought when you saw a lot of attention coming to you and your blog?
D: Really it was Kip Litton. I came to that story late – and most everything was dug up. I read through the blog that the guy put together on Kip and remember how detailed it was. I thought the guy was kind of crazy for putting it together. Looking back, I see he was ahead of his time.
I always enjoyed looking at the traffic after making a post. The post on Gia Alvarez immediately was generating more traffic than I ever had. I didn’t think that my article on her would ever get that attention. That was the first time I ever received any media requests—besides the Runner’s World profile. The Gia article came out a couple weeks before the initial Runner’s World story. Those two events are really what made the blog take off. Those events also forced me to take a look at the articles I would write and be more careful about naming runners – because by that point I became aware that I wasn’t really just writing to myself and a few friends.
C: You probably realize that runners are a very passionate group of people. Has that worked in your favor or do you think people get too emotional about finding cheaters?
D: It’s definitely worked in my favor as it relates to Boston qualifiers. Of course there is a group that says that it shouldn’t matter to me and that I am shaming runners by posting my articles. Some say I should just notify the RD’s. However, just notifying the RD’s does not have the deterrent effect that writing articles about cheating does. Also writing articles raises awareness and results in more tips, which means less runners will get away with it.
On the flip side, I think some people always take it too far. I always cringe when I hear of people contacting the runners directly or making inappropriate comments to them. Unfortunately, I cannot control or predict the reactions of everyone. I am more cautious about the articles I chose to write and how much identifying information I put out there on the average cheater.
C: You have reported on many cheaters. Any that particularly frustrate you?
D: Marlon Bascombe – the running coach. I was unable to get him disqualified despite overwhelming evidence. The main reason I failed with that is that the NJ marathon changed management, and the new management was not in charge when Marlon ran there. His followers take the fact that he was not DQ’d as vindication.
Also, I have to mention I am frustrated by the Parvaneh Moayedi and Larry Macon situation with Guinness World Record. I have provided as much evidence as possible that their records were ‘embellished’. Unless they have time machines, it is impossible that they have achieved what they claim. For some reason Guinness ignores this.
C: I was asked awhile back how you could have job satisfaction from a job like this, that dives into the negative of this sport. How do you keep yourself from getting jaded about others?
D: Yes, I spend the time looking at the negative side – but it is so those that earn it, can experience the positive side. I’ve heard from a runner that thanked me for what I do – she firmly believes that without my work she would have lost out on her Boston spot. For the most part I am able to distance myself from the emotional side of it. When I am analyzing results, they are just bib #s and times on a spreadsheet. When I write an article, I try to look at the human side of it.
C: How do you look at the human side when all you see is numbers on a spreadsheet?
D: I take a step back after doing all the spreadsheet work. If I am writing about a specific individual, I make every effort to reach out to speak or email with them. There are times where I backed off on publicly naming someone after I learned more about them personally.
C: Do you have any funny stories to share?
D: For a few days after Boston, I received quite a few tips. Most of the time the tipsters were correct in spotting runners that cheated. I received 5 tips on a single runner. All of the runners said that there was no way the guy they saw could have earned the bib # he was wearing. He was in one of the early corrals with a bib # in the 1000’s. It turns out, he just put on some weight since he qualified about 1-1/2 years prior.
I also received tips that someone was wearing the police commissioner’s old 2013 bib. I almost put an article up. It turns out it was for the filming of the movie ‘Patriot Day’.
C: With all the scrutiny, do you think you will ever want to return to running and face your peers? You know everyone is going to be watching your results? Lol
D: Yes. I have decided to run The Columbus Marathon this year. That was my first marathon, and I think it would be fitting to give it another go. I never fully prepared properly for a marathon. I enjoyed running them..but I could have performed better. I have no idea what kind of time I will run. But it is a goal of mine to break my PR – 8 years after running my last marathon (My PR is over 5 hours).
C: That’s great. Are you following a specific training program? What do you enjoy about running? What keeps you going when the miles are tough?
D: Way too early to start training for Fall 😉 I am starting to run a little bit now. In the past I’ve been able to get where I can slowly run a decent distance fairly quickly. So, over the next month or 2, I am going to build my base to where I can comfortably run 10k at about 10- 11 min pace, and then I will fall into one of the Hal Higdon plans. I should probably go with the novice plan at this point. Still evaluating my plans – may take a trip out to Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Marathon in November, instead.
C: We know runners cheat, but what about the RD’s that look the other way or enable the cheating. What do you have to say to them?
D: It’s disappointing when the occasional RD looks the other way. There is a difference between not having the time or resources to dig through for every cheater. But I do get annoyed when RD’s look the other way. There was one case where I reported a cheater with a BQ time, that cheated in a race multiple years – and the RD told me to report him again if he cheats next year (He did cheat, and I reported him again).
C: Walk me through the scenario. You find a cheater, you contact the suspect and what happens if they admit they did cheat. Do you still make the report public or contact Boston privately to ensure they do not run Boston?
D: If someone cheated one time and admits it, I would make sure they get DQ’d and removed from Boston if applicable and leave it at that. In most cases they don’t respond until after I write an article. If they admit it at that point, I will note that in the article.
C: Have you considered going to a race expo to see if people recognize you and you can get more tips? You know you are quite the rock star!
D: Not really. I don’t think anyone would recognize me by site. If I wore a sign that said I ran the website marathoninvestigation.com, that might get some attention. I have thought that speaking at expos might be a potential next step – but I haven’t pursued that.
C: Has there been a report that left you feeling satisfied you caught the cheater? One that made you feel “oh yes” at the end of the day?
D: A few. When Runners World was writing the article on my process to catch Boston qualifiers that cheated, they vetted all the cases where I determined that someone cheated. There was one case where I identified a course cutter. RW didn’t feel the evidence was compelling enough to include this runner in the published totals of the # of cheaters identified. Looking at the course, it was difficult to see how he would have pulled it off. Early this year I received a tip about this guy – he obviously cut the course in Nashville. He was DQ’d and denied another Boston entry. That validated my initial finding.
On the flip side – the story I worked the hardest on was where I helped to vindicate Ryan Lee. He was disqualified from The London Marathon. I was able to take a snapshot of him on the course – and used Google street view to determine his exact location. I was able to identify other runners to determine the time the photo was taken. That information proved that his start time as recorded by the marathon was inaccurate – if he started when they said he did, he could not have been in that photo.
C: I remember that story about Ryan. Based on your posts, I could tell you were working so hard for that young man. What a sweet victory to have him vindicated. Have you heard from him or his mom?
D: Yes, I reached out a few weeks ago. He is training for London. I look forward to seeing how he does. ->
C: What’s in the future for you? Still writing? Do you think this will ever get so big you will have a team of investigators?
D: Good question. This has definitely grown beyond what I ever envisioned. If I had the time, I could write multiple articles a day – and catch more cheaters. There are volunteers and others that feed me tips, and do work on their own, or help me gather data. I have begun to ask others to write guest articles.
I have expanded the scope of my articles – but my main mission will always be to catch the cheaters. I am always thinking about the best way to catch and prevent cheaters. One way may be to partner up with races in a more formal manner. If I were to do that I would need to do so in such a way that I am still viewed as independent.
Thank you, Derek for taking the time to allow my readers to get to know you. On behalf of the running community, I would like to thank you for being so diligent to expose the cheaters and prove the innocence of those wrongfully DQ’d.