Have you ever registered for a race and then not been able to run it? Maybe you were injured or had an unplanned work commitment. Whatever your reason, did you offer your bib to someone else?
To be completely honest, I have done it. It was for a small-town race, but that doesn’t make it right.
But I’ll tell you what- I will not do it again.
Run Gia Run is a fellow running blogger. She’s quite popular and I have followed her journey for quite some time. She seems like a good person and I have enjoyed reading her blog. She has been very open with her struggles with infertility and her life with twins. I read her blog back when she qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon (with a time of 3:32 at the 2013 LA Marathon) but she didn’t run Boston that year. She qualified again at the Chicago marathon in 2013 with a time of 3:32. Since she was pregnant for the 2015 Boston marathon, she gave her bib to a friend. Her friend ended up runing a 3:22 (at Boston).
With that time of 3:22 under her name, Gina then registered and trained to run the Boston marathon THIS year. But then she was ousted for “qualifying” and registering based on her friend’s time. The BAA (Boston Athletic Assocation) banned her for life from ever running the Boston Marathon.
FOR LIFE. Read her version here:
And then read this article too, while you’re at it. Then this one too. Her story has hit the internets like a bomb. It’s all my friends and I have been texting about (clearly I live in a little runner’s bubble.)
When this story first broke, Gina wrote a post on her blog explaining that she did what many runners have done; she gave her bib to someone else. I felt sympathetic towards her. I was impressed that the BAA caught her and imposed such a tough penalty. I felt that they were justified in doing so, but yet I did feel sorry for her that she’ll never have the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon even though she had legitimately qualified (though not for 2016).
“Based on an “anonymous tip” the BAA found out. They had photo proof that I wasn’t the runner who ran with my bib. This breaks their rules and disqualifies me from running in any further BAA races. My heart is broken. I’m embarrassed and ashamed.”
In that initial post, however, she did not share the fact hat she actually used that friend’s time to register to run Boston this year. Only later did it become apparent that it was her friend’s qualifying time using her 2015 bib that she had used to register for Boston 2016.
That made me change my opinion of her.
She lied when registering for BOSTON! How could you possibly think you’d get away with this at BOSTON?? The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious running events, at least to a lot of people (including me).
Gia, you are a popular blogger who shares your running journey with the public; the same “public” who is not always very nice (remember this post?). Nor is this public very forgiving. Forums like “Let’s Run” and GOMI (Get off my Internets) are loaded with thousands of people researching and questioning and trying to uncover this exact sort of dishonest behavior (It’s also filled with loads of people just being snarky and mean. God hope I never end up on GOMI; not sure my skin is thick enough!)
When it comes to cheating at races, there is an entire blog, Marathon Investigation, that is entirely devoted to catching cheaters at races. Runner’s World recently shared this article about a man who dedicates his life to catching cheaters.
Gia’s “mistake” wasn’t even that hard to uncover. She hadn’t run a marathon herself since 2013 and the BAA had plenty of proof that she didn’t qualify for Boston 2016.
As I admitted above, I have given a bib away. But I also have trained my ass off and just barely qualified for Boston (thank you 36 seconds. And Dustin. Thank you Dustin.), yet I will not be able to register for Boston 2017 because my time is not fast enough. The race has become too popular. I won’t be able to register because there are potentially other “Gia’s” who are cheating the system. I am sure that there are other cheaters who are not following the rules, who are potentially decreasing the chances for people who actually qualify themselves to run this race. I am frustrated that this goes on; this article shows Craig’s List ads for people selling their spots. Selling them on the black market! Yes, this is a real thing. And it’s sad and it’s frustrating.
Gia has since posted an honest apology on her blog (read it here). She definitely learned her lesson and I’m back to feeling sorry for her. We all make mistakes and yes, hers was a HUGE one, one that I can’t believe she did, but she has owned up to it and admitted she did it and that it was a mistake. I’m sure she is very sorry. I can’t imagine the backlash she has received; she had to turn off the comments on her blog for now. She probably is feeling like absolute crap (not to mention she will NEVER get to run Boston).
In fact, I think a lot of us have learned a lesson from her. I won’t be transferring bibs for ANY races and I won’t be running under anyone’s else’s name.
Is transferring your bib always illegal?
No. Some races allow you to transfer your bib and have systems set up for you to do so. I have heard that it’s easy to officially transfer a bib for Grandma’s Marathon. I think more races should offer this an option although I can understand them wanting to avoid the hassle.
Could Boston ever offer a legal bib transfer?
I’m sure it would be a lot of work to determine which runners are “next-in-line” to register, but we “squeakers” would be much appreciative of that opportunity.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the BAA was fair in their punishment of Gia?
Be honest- have you ever transferred a bib before? Run a race under someone else’s name?
I’d love to hear what you think of all this!
Slightly off-topic, your post made me think of this story:
That’s definitely relevant and a fascinating story. I just don’t understand WHY that guy would do such a thing….messed up.
I go back and forth on feeling sorry and then being really angry. Initially I felt sorry not knowing the whole story from Gia’s blog, only understanding that she was banned for allowing someone else to run under her bib number last year. Then angry that she used said qualifying time of her friend’s to register for the race this year. I, like so many others, want to qualify and run Boston, but I want to do it fairly knowing that I put in the work to get there. No wonder it has been so hard to get into Boston… Read more »
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Christie. Great point that cheating is not bringing about camaraderie. Quite the opposite.
I don’t know Gia like you do but even just from reading her blog she seems like a good person who just made a terrible mistake. I think it’s interesting like you said this AM that elite athletes are only banned for 5 years for doping but she’s banned for life.
What a way to learn a lesson. I wonder if this was just really poor judgement with no original intent to use her friends time when she gave her the bib and it just became to tempting.
A lifetime ban seems excessive since pro athletes can dope and only be banned for 2 to 4 years. Heck, some were only banned for 6 months with coincided with the off season.
Agreed, good question. I’d like to think she didn’t give it to that particular friend because she knew that friend would run a fast enough time to get her a “good” Boston Qualifier.
A woman on the Oiselle Team website the other day shared that she had come up with a severe injury and couldn’t run Boston, and her coach actually ENCOURAGED her to give her bib away to another runner that he coaches. So, she’s incredibly bummed about not being able to run herself, and dealing with injury, and then to have her coach telling her she needs to give away her bib? She was infuriated. Needless to say, she decided to ditch that coach. I am with you 100% on this one. I think it’s completely wrong to give your bib… Read more »
Wow Katie. That is terrible. I can’t imagine my coach ever asking me to do that- a coach should know better. Though Gia is actually a coach herself….and she did it. It was an obvious moral failure on her part.
Yes, it only takes one person cheating to devalue the entire race, but Gia is just one person who got caught. How many others got away with it?
Exactly. That is what frustrates me the most. Sad face.
[…] entry to this “holy grail” of marathons. I first came across this story via Jessie at The Right Fits who wrote a post about another blogger named Gia Alvarez. Alvarez qualified for the Boston marathon […]
No, I have never given, traded or sold a bib. One of the solutions to this races should make more of an effort to legitimately transfer a bib.
I crashed on my bike right before a Ironman I entered in. Three cracked ribs, a punctured lung and a dislocated thumb later there was no way I could compete. Entrance fee was just shy of $800. Which I ate the cost of. Never would I have considered giving someone else my bib.
Wow, that sounds like an intense injury Big G….and gees, Ironman races are expensive.
Agree that more races should have ways to transfer a bib, rather than have those spots go to waste.
Thanks for your post. When I register for a race and agree to the non-refundable and non-transferable rules I understand that I’m taking a risk. It’s similar to a non-refundable or non-transferable hotel or airline reservation. Sure, it’s nice when a race offers official transfers, but I don’t expect it. As the twin of a race director and race volunteer, I know that directing a race involves a lot of logistics and planning that most runners don’t realize. Registering for a race is a choice. There are many races to choose from. If you don’t like the rules of a… Read more »
I can tell that you feel passionately about this and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I understand how frustrating it is to try to run Boston (fair and square) and not be able to, and then to hear about others who run it dishonestly.
Since writing this post, I have heard tales of people that make FAKE bibs for both Boston and NYC and it is so disappointing. Gia’s tale should get all the press necessary so that hopefully others are deterred from doing this sort of thing.
She’s getting what she deserved. She’s not an elite athlete that doped. She entered a race with a private org that can set the rules for participation and entry. Like it or not, they are the BAA’s purview. We can debate qualifying times by age group, the number of charity bibs vs qualifiers, the fairness of sponsor bibs, etc. Gia could have entered via charity if she wanted to run so bad. With whatever popularity she has she probably could have raised a lot of money. But she chose the easy route then posted about her training. She’s naive and… Read more »
That’s a great point Susan. Gia definitely could have (and should have!) just raised the funds via a charity.
Definitely underestimated the power of the internet and social media. It was easy to question how/when she had qualified for Boston when all of a sudden she was training for it and no one who had followed her journey could figure out which race she had qualified with.
My initial reaction was similar to your second reaction… very disappointed in Gia and the way she tried to pass it off as an innocent mistake. Using someone else’s time as a BQ is unforgivable to me. When it was important to me to run Boston in 2014, It was my first marathon, so I joined a charity team and worked hard… not just training, but raising funds, too. I hope to some day return to my first marathon as a qualifier, but I’d never steal someone else’s slot, and that’s what Gia did. She had a legitimate path to… Read more »
Great comments and thanks for sharing James.
Yes, this is a tough result. Running the race on a BQ that wasn’t hers is really unfair. If the BAA didn’t police bib trading thoroughly, you’d get a secondary market similar to what has happened to concert tickets. Every fast runner that BQs would buy a bib and post it on the secondary market. As a result, since all the fastest runners were taking a bib, the BQ margin would go way up (or BQ times would have to be set faster), preventing even more BQ caliber runners from getting in. And prices on the secondary market would go… Read more »
Interesting point- I wasn’t thinking that it should be an open market but rather a sensible bib exchange to other qualifiers with no “market” for a profit. Please don’t let the BQ times get faster!!’
Bottom line- don’t cheat. Don’t be deceptive. In events where you have to qualify for your spot- then don’t give your spot to someone else. PERIOD. While I feel bad for her- I’m glad that BAA took this hard stance. With the serial MCM cheater – who cheated for 5 years at least AND went to Boston ON HIS FALSE TIME to the wingnut who bandited the Atlanta Half Marathon and blogged about it – this stuff has to stop. People say if you cheat you’re only cheating yourself. This is inaccurate. You’re cheating every.single.legitimately.registered.person who did the event fully… Read more »
Totally agree! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Marie.
[…] But just qualifying is not enough these days. I got my BQ this year at the Phoenix Marathon, but only by 36 seconds. For 2016, runners needed to qualify by 2:28 or more. Just qualifying doesn’t guarantee entry…(and definitely do NOT think about cheating to obtain entry.) […]
I have run a 10 miler for 4 years in a row that uses a lottery to get in. I have LOST in the lottery 2 years in a row and instead run with a charity and raise at least $500. I am trying like hell for years to get into Boston. Im giving myself 3 more years and if I don’t BQ I will run for a charity and raise at least $5000 to run Boston. I have respect, life happens, babies happen, she knew she was cheating by using her friend’s time!!! I’m not a blogger and I… Read more »
Thanks for sharing your thought Kelly. I agree- as a blogger you’d think she’d realize she’d get caught, living in the “public eye” so to speak.
A cheater is differentiated by the motive…. A non-cheater, is doing it for themselves, w/ integrity and morals. A cheater’s motive is for others, a show, as they value MORE what others think of them. So it’s not so unusual for a public blogger who DEPENDS on high volume of traffic and “likes” would do such a thing… she is gaining for attention.
I’m sure she was influenced by the attention as a blogger…blogging can be a positive thing- as a blogger, I really enjoy it! But unfortunately it does lead to bad behavior by some.
I think part of the problem is that some seem to think getting a BQ is what makes one a runner, that somehow not being able to get that makes one a failure, as a runner at least. It is an arbitrary figure. I know lots of runners who could do it in their sleep and lots who will never get there. They’re all runners. The sadness is that some don’t understand. Trying for a BQ can be a great motivator, just as trying to break (the similarly arbitrary) 3 hours or 4 hours. In the end, the only person… Read more »
I agree with you there Joe, which is part of what my husband said in this point “What it means to run Boston.” Boston is not the end-all, be-all that defines you as a runner.
A ban for 2 to 3 years would have been enough. The fact is that we get in Boston marathon on the fastest time first. So there are as many runners who are excluded as there are who have cheated. However it is not a drug use to improve performance and win titles. Those have a 2 years ban when they are caught so why should she get a lifetime ban? To make an example? Maybe they could drug test the first 10 men and women to see what happen. Anyway, the sentence seems harsh to me. Not mentionning the… Read more »
I think I agree with you Mimi. A lifelong ban is pretty harsh.
What I don’t get is HOW her friend was able to secure the 2015 bib in the first place. This would be the first stop from allowing a cheater (broad I know, but fact considering her friend did not personally earn the spot). As a 4x Boston Marathoner (personal experience), in order to pick up your bib, you have to be present, in person w/ a PHOTO ID. Did her friend have a fake ID? You can’t have another person pick up your bib. This is very clearly stated when accepted BM entrants receive their renowned Runners Passport in the… Read more »
That’s a good question. Maybe she gave her ID to her friend to take to the expo…
I feel very bad for Gia cause being banned for life seems as a very strict penalty and really excessive compared to doping penalties. I think that many people treansfer their bibs without even realizing that they’re taking someone else’s spot. And in the end that is really selfish and not fair. But I guess most people think they won’t get caught which in Gia’s case is really too big of a risk considering she’s a popular blogger. It seems that this is one of those things where until you are very afraid of the penalty, you don’t think it’s… Read more »
I agree with you Tamara. It was a harsh penalty and maybe they will reverse it if she qualifies legitimately. I think her story already deterred many others from doing what she did. I know I won’t be transferring a bib ever!