The Quest for the Truth

Hey everybody,

Let me start with the status of the knee. Donald Trump might explain it something like this: “Allen has a bad knee, people. It’s not good. It’s bad. He has a bad knee. Bad.” I got a shot of Euflexxa on Tuesday and have two more coming. Let’s hope these work before I become one of those dumpy former runners. It may be too late already.

Speaking of dumpy former runners, that brings us to the subject of today’s blog.

The Claim

Recently at my place of work, participants of a meeting were asked to introduce themselves and to include some non-workplace stories. I wasn’t present but folks who were told me that one guy, let’s call him Kevin (not his real name), claimed he’d once broken three hours in a marathon. My instant response: “Bullshit.”

It’s not that a sub-3:00 is an overly fantastic claim – I have quite a few friends that have reached this running milestone. It’s not Olympic-caliber. It’s not elite. But it is faster than the vast majority of marathoners and considered quite an achievement among us ‘hobby joggers’. But coming from this particular claimant, let’s just say that I was having a very hard time buying it. Kevin does not particularly look like someone that could’ve run a fast marathon – he simply does not have that lean look common to most fast distance runners. When Pete Kaplan tells me he once ran a sub-2:25 marathon, I don’t doubt him for a second – lean and athletic, Pete’s physique lends instant credibility to his claim. But when Kevin, just an average-looking 50-something (not fat, but not thin either), says he ran a sub-3:00, I have some serious doubts.

I think what really got to me about this situation was the fact that everyone else in the office immediately accepted it as true. Kevin said he ran a sub-3:00 marathon so it must be true. Was I the only person in the office aware of all the Kip Littons and Mike Rossis in today’s world? Did nobody else remember that Transamerica exec that rode the false claim of an Olympic gold medal to the upper echelons of his company? Obviously, a sub-3:00 is a lot different than a gold medal, but to me, it’s not something you automatically assume to be true either. In other words, it bugged me that no one found this story the least bit fishy.

I’m not saying that I thought Kevin was intentionally lying. On the contrary, I thought it feasible (actually, I thought it probable) that he was confusing a 3:50-something with a 2:50-something. This is not the least bit uncommon. People who run a marathon simply to check off a box on their bucket list do this pretty regularly. I have a friend who once did this exact thing – when I ran into him shortly after he completed his first marathon, I asked him how he’d done and he replied, “Okay. I finished. Nothing as fast as you [my PR is 3:19] – I ran just under 3:00, 2:50-something.” I asked, “You mean just under 4:00? 3:50-something?” And he honestly had to think about it before he realized his mistake. And that was when his marathon was recent, just a few months earlier. I think this is exactly what happened to Paul Ryan in the 2012 presidential election and I was confident that’s what was happening with Kevin as well.

The Quest

So I set out to find the truth. The first thing I did was to perform a search at the well-known race-results site Athlinks. It’s a simple thing to plug in somebody’s name and pull up a bunch of their times.

Kevin told folks he had broken three in the Disney marathon. In Athlinks, he had one Disney marathon result listed, a 4:05 in 2003. So there it was – not only had he not broken three, he hadn’t even broken four. No further questions your honor. I presented my findings to a gentleman that had been present where Kevin made his claim.

“No, that’s not the race. He said he broke three in the inaugural Disney marathon. 1994, I think. He’d slowed down a lot by 2003.” How convenient – the alleged sub-3:00 was in an older race, probably a pre-internet-online-results race. But I was now on a quest – I wasn’t going to be deterred that easily.

I thought maybe it’d be as easy as googling “Disney marathon results” which led me here where there’s a dropdown menu with different years’ results. I got excited for a split second until I saw that the oldest race listed was 2012. Dead end.

I turned to the message boards at Let’s Run. Those guys are notoriously famous for uncovering the truth about race results – they were instrumental in busting both Kip Litton and Mike Rossi. I started a thread and asked if anybody had race results from the inaugural 1994 Disney marathon. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. No response at all.

“This can’t be this hard”, I thought. I emailed Disney – just because they only have results since 2012 online, that didn’t mean they didn’t possess the older results. They emailed me back. Allow me to paraphrase: “Sorry, we don’t keep old results.” Now it was a quest.

I emailed a bunch of friends that have been running marathons for years – there was an excellent chance that at least one of them had run Disney in ’94. Bobby Aswell responded that he’d run it, but didn’t have the results. “Try Tom Torkildsen. He ran it.” I emailed Tom. He’d run it, but only kept his individual results.

This was turning out to be much more difficult than I’d imagined. I’d recently read this article in Runner’s World so I emailed Ken Young, he of the Association of Road Running Statisticians fame – surely he could help! Nope. Ken responded that his results usually only consisted of the top ten in a marathon and no more. Still no luck.

I emailed marathonguide.com and asked them. They’ve yet to respond.

I was a dog with a bone – I couldn’t let this thing go – but I was getting desperate. I turned to the power of social media. I have a lot of runner friends and each of them have a lot of other runner friends – the 6-degrees of Kevin Bacon effect should reach out to just about any marathoner in the world. And I was sure that somebody out there had the results to the 1994 Disney marathon. So I posted on Facebook that I was looking for these results and I needed help.

The dead ends piled up. Somebody contacted a friend of theirs at Disney who sent him the results link that I had found with my original google search. Somebody else said that Queen City timing was involved with timing the Disney race and might have access to the 1994 results – I emailed them and got no response.

A couple of people pointed me to the 50 States Marathon Club where a gentleman named Kip Eldridge was listed as the contact for the 1994 Disney marathon. I emailed Kip and he responded. He had the results! I gave him Kevin’s name and asked him if he could find his results and send them to me. When Kip asked Kevin’s time, I had to explain this whole “well he claims 2:50-something but I’m thinking maybe 3:50-something” business. Kip told me he’d try to find them but that he was going out of town on Friday (we were exchanging emails on Thursday) so it may have to wait until he returned. Oh, I was getting so close – the thought of waiting through the long weekend sounded like torture to me!

Ken came through. Thursday evening he sent me a picture of the page that contained Kevin’s results. He’d run a 2:55. I was stunned. Kevin was legit back in the day – he’d actually done it! Wow, I was flabbergasted. I really believed I’d be finding a 3:50-something time, instead he’d run a solid sub-3:00. Not a 2:59:59, but a 2:55:13. I asked myself, “Why’s he saying sub-3:00? If it was me, I’d say 2:55!”

Epilogue

I am now officially the third fastest marathoner on my row at work. Maybe a big reason for my obsession with this quest is because for the longest time I had believed that only one guy on the row (Steve ran a low-3:00 back in the day. 3:07, I think?) had a faster time. (Quick aside: I never questioned Steve’s time because I’d run with him a few times and we’d hammered out some strong, fast miles on the University hills. Unlike Kevin’s claim, it was easy to believe that Steve had run a fast time – no quest necessary.)

Then a 2:55 guy pops up out of nowhere. Are we missing somebody else? There are only like 15 people on the row and four of them are sub-3:25 marathoners? That seems a little crazy to me.

And I’m hanging onto third place by the slimmest of margins – my PR is just ever so slightly faster than Dean’s – he is one good race away from stealing my top three spot. And there’s a young guy on the row who just started training for a marathon and has a reasonably good chance of claiming a top three spot as well. I’m dubbing our row “Marathon Alley”.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be getting two more Euflexxa shots to the knee. Let’s hope these get me back on the road so if somebody does take over my third place spot I can at least try to take it back.

 

 

 

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One Response to “The Quest for the Truth”

  1. Rob Boyer Says:

    Nice work, detective.

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