Wednesday, 4 March 2015

parkrun cheaters (not cheetahs)

There's something that disturbs me greatly... people who cheat at parkrun.

If you've been living under a rock and don't know what parkrun is... It's a five-kilometres, free, times run that happens concurrently at dozens of locations throughout South Africa (usually parks or park-like areas) at 08h00 on Saturday mornings. Every Saturday throughout the year. (parkrun is also in other countries - just talking about SA here)

Some parkrun venues have routes that include loops. The benefit of loops is that unfit people starting out can walk only one loop (shorter overall distance) and build up steadily to completing the full five-kilometre distance. Those who only do one loop are not meant to go through the timing finish because they have not completed the full distance and they mess up the placings for people who have.

A few weeks ago at Woodlands I came flying through to the finish and just ahead of me was a woman who was walking... and walking slowly too. The marshals asked her whether she'd completed both loops. And she said "Yes!". Liar-liar pants on fire! There was no way that she could have beaten me. She wasn't even sweating!

My mom has had the experience (walking and near the back of the field) where she's seen walkers behind her but then they finish ahead of her.

I've chastised people cutting corners at parkrun. "I'm just trying to get ahead of  them", they say - pointing to people ahead.  Then out-run them, idiot.

People even sit on the side to wait for people (strangers and/or friends) who they walked with on the first loop, to return at the end of the second loop so that they get an 'appropriate' time at the finish and yet they haven't actually done the full distance.

Do they go home and proudly proclaim to friends and family that they did parkrun in 42-minutes?

And what about those that arrive late and then just hop in with the passing crowd?

You should all be ashamed!

The sad truth is that when people see an opportunity to cheat, many will. It is disgraceful. Where's that sense of achievement? If they can't manage five-kilometres now, they will in a few weeks and then how proud will they feel when they earn that full-course time?

It really is up to us to call out the cheaters and to remind them not to go through the timing chute if they haven't done the full course. I like to think that they day they do complete the distance and receive that time that they'll feel proud and appreciate having earned it.

This may seem like a small cheat but people who cheat at something as 'insignificant' as parkrun are certainly cheating in other areas of their lives too and maybe they just need a reminder to do what is right.

One of my favourite TED speakers is Dan Ariely - he's a behavioural economist and many of his talks were featured in the Think101 online course I did last year.

Here's one of his TED talks on why we think it is ok to cheat and steal (sometimes). The first few minutes speaks about irrationality and this links on at about 4:30 to simple cheating experiments and the irrationality behind this.


Anonymous said...

Yes, woodlands parkrun is notorious for that - probably because its quite hard! I never could figure out WHY people would want to cheat at it - there is no benefit... but humans are strange animals I suppose. Therefore i completely ignore my placement and work solely on time for Parkrun - but it is quite sad.

Anonymous said...

Then there's runners that start 5 meters before the starting line and sprint of before the gun goes off.
I know Parkrun's are there for fun, BUT if it is a timed event rules should be applied.

Anonymous said...

I think because you can get 500 discovery points there has been a huge influx of people who do this run. However, the name is park run, and more than half the people walk ! For us runners, the walkers can get in the way and at the moment joburg park runs are bursting at the seams. I think in the spirit of the park "run" discovery should only award points to people who finish within 40 mins and hold a park walk at 8:40 for walkers.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

LOL our parkrun is full of kids who take shortcuts through the woods, two lappers and various other naughty people. As long as they don't get in my way I'm not too bothered.