I have to admit that when I started this interview segment one of the top people I wanted to chat with was Derek Murphy, founder of Marathon Investigation. Derek is a rare breed in the marathoning world by investigating those who cheat during races. His focus is not those on the podium or exposing doping but runners who cheat for their own personal glory through bib swapping, course cutting or running without entering. His main focus is on the holy grail of the race calendar, The Boston Marathon. This year, using his blend of algorithms, online data, anonymous tipsters and official race photos he exposed more than a dozen runners who cheated to qualify for the Boston Marathon. He also focusses on those who put the running world into disrepute which create a fiery debate recently following the investigation into blogger Kelly Roberts (aka Run, Selfie, Repeat) where he uncovered her running large parts of races without having entered. His website is filled with incredibly interesting investigations that I could talk about for hours but for now, though, lets get on with the interview.
What keeps you motivated?
I stay motivated by focusing on runners and others that are affected when people cheat. For runners that cheat to run Boston, I focus on those that get left out of the race. If someone is deceiving sponsors, or supporters I think it is important to call them out and make sure they have some accountability.
What has been your proudest investigation?
Without a doubt, the case of Ryan Lee at the 2016 London Marathon. That was sort of a reversal of roles for me. He was originally disqualified from the race. I was able to put together information that led to his reinstatement.
Which investigation has received the most backlash?
That is hard to say. I don’t think any particular story received an unexpected amount of backlash. When I write about cheating, there are always those that think I should just report the runners to the races and not publish blog posts detailing the investigations. Where I get the most backlash is when I write stories that are not strictly about cheating to qualify for Boston. For example when I wrote about Kelly Roberts there was some backlash and quite a bit of debate.
Whats the most bizarre story you’ve investigated?
There are a number of bizarre cases. Probably the most bizarre is the case of Jeffrey Donnelly (and his wife Shari). Jeffrey has cut courses to run for Boston numerous times. His wife once forged a bib to run in Boston along with Jeffrey. Once he was caught and unable to get away with cutting courses, he started trying to enter races under aliases. Other than the Donnelly’s, the most bizarre case was the Jane Seo case – what made that bizarre was the attempt to cover up the cheating by bicicling the course after the race in an attempt to generate a GPS record of her on the course.
What are the future plans for Marathon Investigation?
I’ve started to work more closely with races and with timers. I’ve signed up a handful of supporters and one race signed up to partner with Marathon Investigation. I am in discussions with others as well. I believe that working cooperatively with races and focusing on preventing and discouraging cheating before it occurs is the ultimate goal. I feel that some articles are necessary and help to raise awareness of cheating in races. I also have been receiving an increasing number of reports regarding triathlons and ultra races. I will be writing more about cheating in those sports moving forward.
How can people get involved?
People email me tips and send me messages all the time if they witness a suspected cheater, or if they see a friend or acquaintance post a questionable accomplishment on social media. Some people will actually go through results on their own and send me runners that they think may have cheated. I welcome any help. However, I do make sure I independently review all tips.
Finally morning coffee or morning run?
Morning run. Never have been a coffee drinker. I was never a morning runner either. I usually run late in the evening. But when I would train for marathons, I would manage to get up early for my long runs.
You can follow Derek’s investigations on his website Marathon Investigation