About a week ago, I posted "The Challenge, The Bragging Rights & The Souvenir" in this blog. I thought that was my last post on the Borneo International Marathon 2016. Then a few days ago, someone spotted a cheater when sorting out the tons of photos at the finish line of the BIM. It was the photo of a lady running to the finish line twice, each time with a different bib. The earlier photo was that of the half marathon bib, which was way past the cut off time. The second photo was that of a full marathon bib, and it was within the cut off time. I suppose she eventually got the finisher medal and T-shirt for the full marathon, even though she ranand DNF-edin the half marathon (because of time).
I will admit that it was interesting to know that someone would actually cheat like that, but I didn't think at the time it warranted a post in this blog. I mean, cheating cases in marathon races are not a new thing. There are many of these creatures out there. I saw the excitement on facebook, and people were beginning to criticize her size. As a matter of fact, a friend was also commenting on her size through Whatsapp, but I carefully refrained from participating.
I'm not blaming the commenters; people are like that, when they are angry and frustrated, they will find any means of attacking the offending person, and the fact that she's fat became a convenient target. That's just human nature. But I will have none of it. I think it is just mean to criticize someone for being fat. All of us would love to be beautiful in every sense of the word, but we are just not perfectall of us have weaknesses one way or another. Some of us simply can't control ourselves when it comes to cigarettes; others on drugs and sex; and yes, others still on food. If we're not so crazy about food, we may find it hard to understand why some people can't control their craving for food. But we wouldn't know what these fat people are going through each day, fighting perpetual hunger pangs, and seemingly failing all the time. I wish that we can find it in us to be kind and give them a bit of leeway; give them hope to achieve a healthier body.
Well, I thought the story would die off very soon. But then more photos began to surface. I shall not include the photos here, as I'm sure most of you would have seen them anyway by now. Suffice to say that three persons ran with the same full marathon bib that day, and all three ended up getting the medals and T-shirts.
Suddenly, the story became a big thing, and I've decided that I'd blog about it after all. But not because of the cheating; rather because one of the alleged cheaters was a so-called lecturer and coach in sports and fitness.
Before that, let me just share the modus operandi of how these people beat the system as best as I could piece them out. I have received numerous versions from different parties, each one slightly different, of course.
The half marathoner ran her race. She failed to meet the cut off time by a huge margin, thus arriving at the finish line with no medal to bring home. Then the coach arrived at the finish line of his full marathon race, well within the cut off time. He got his medal and T-shirt. He had carefully put his bib in a clear plastic when he crossed the finish line, so that when the medal and T-shirt were given to him, instead of marking on the bib, the volunteer marked on the surface of the plastic.
Then came the second act. The bib was then taken out of the plastic and transferred into another plastic. Or perhaps the marker did not stick to the surface of the original plastic. So the DNF-ed half marathoner used that bib to go round to the entrance of the stadium, and duly made her way to the finish line again, this time within the cut off time for the full marathon. So she got the finisher medal and T-shirt for the full marathon.
A third runner followed suit. The only difference is that this time the bib was taken out of the plastic, because I suspect bib in plastic passing through the finish line 3 times might have attracted the attention of the volunteers. And so, the third runner (presumably another DNF-ed half marathoner) also got the medal and T-shirt for the full marathon.
Now let me say that as someone who loves puzzles and riddles a great deal, I admire the creative mind of the cheaters. The trick is so simple and beautiful; and in this case it worked wonderfully well to beat the system. These people have brains, I tell you! But what's more disturbing is that we have a leader that is instilling the wrong kind of mentality in his followers.
At this juncture, let me also mention another interesting, if laughable, version of how it happened. The full marathoner arrived at the finish line with his bib in the plastic. He received the medal and T-shirt. He was happy, and he changed into that finisher T-shirt for the photos. Except that in the process of changing shirts, his bib suddenly went missing, and he did not realise it, and probably stolen by the ladies who then took turns to cross the finish line to get their respective medals and T-shirts. A version of the story that not only put a smile to my face, but it quickly made me reconsider my verdict when I said these people have brains!
Shakespeare's Malvolio would probably have said something like this in reaction to this story:
"Some are born famous, some achieve fame, some have fame thrust upon them."
Well, a sports and fitness lecturer suddenly becomes famousthe fame thrust upon him, but for all the wrong reason. He is a famous leader, but not necessarily a great leader. I have always said that respect is earned, not an automatic right. One must behave respectably before he can expect others to respect him.
A Malay proverb goes like this:
"Guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari."
Which basically means that if a teacher or leader does bad things, then his followers will tend to do even worse than him. Some of us who are leaders in whatever we do should revisit the question of what was it that we sought to achieve when we decided to become a leader. Was it because we wanted to help others to achieve excellence in our field of expertise, or was it because we wanted to turn them into nothingness?
As for the argument that "these people just want to run and have fun", my answer is, yes, of course, by all means, go and run and have lots of fun. Go run in the parks or highways. But when you join organised races, I'm afraid they are rules and regulations to adhere to by everybody. Nobody is forcing anybody to join races if the rules are too impossible to obey.