Hundreds of Marathon Runners Caught Cheating Using Fake Bibs, Replacements and Shortcuts

A half-marathon offers runners the chance to push themselves to the limit, to smash individual records and achieve long-held personal goals after months of gruelling training.

But for some participants in last weekend's half-marathon in the southeastern Chinese city of Shenzhen, cheating to get a faster time was preferable to the fulfilment of a race well-run.

Organizers said 258 runners were caught cheating using a variety of methods, citing China's Xinhua news agency. Eighteen were wearing fake runner bibs, three were running in place of others and most of the rest were caught taking shortcuts.

Offenders could be banned for up to two years, while the most egregious culprits might be slapped with lifetime bans, Reuters explained.

Footage of some tricksters was captured by a traffic camera along the route. Runners were supposed to travel down one side of a highway before reaching a designated spot to loop round and run back the way they had come on a parallel road.

But some competitors preferred to clamber through the bushes and trees in between lanes to shave around half a mile off their total race length.

Xinhua quoted the organizers as saying: "We deeply regret the violations that occurred during the event. Marathon running is not simply exercise, it is a metaphor for life, and every runner is responsible for him or herself."

The news agency itself said the cheating, not to mention the scale of it, was "deeply shameful." It continued, "No matter the participants or the organisers, they should reflect: What is the significance of participating in and holding marathons? Don't run and forget why you run. Don't let the marathon turn sour."

The People's Daily—the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party and the largest in China—published an editorial urging runners to "respect the marathon and respect sporting spirit."

Marathon events are increasingly introducing additional measures to track runners and improve race security. Those who run in the Shenzen marathon must present valid credentials such as ID cards, residence permits, passports or military ID to enrol in the race, The Guardian noted.

Other marathons use electronic chips that record runners passing timing mats installed around the course. This gives competitors more accurate times, while helping organizers pick out suspicious trends or any runners who might be taking shortcuts through the bushes.

Marathon running is becoming a big business in the world's most populous country. There were only 22 marathons, half-marathons or other running events held in China in 2011. But 2018 will see 1,100 such events, according to the Chinese Athletics Association.