Blogger retracts StanChart marathon cheat claim

Participants at the flag-off point of the Standard Chartered run in Orchard Road on Sunday.
Participants at the flag-off point of the Standard Chartered run in Orchard Road on Sunday.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

He named and shamed runners who had been rerouted by organiser

A blogger who named and shamed runners he wrongly assumed had cheated during Sunday's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) has retracted his comments after it emerged that the "cheats" were in fact forced to cut short their run for being slow.

Mr Christopher Koh's initial blog post, which contained pictures of the alleged running cheats as well as screengrabs of their race records, had gone viral shortly after it was posted on Monday.

Mr Koh, 52, was taking photos at the race's 35km mark at about 8am when he spotted a group of runners who he suspected had not completed the required distance, based on his knowledge of the average Singapore runner.

"I've been running for a few years and I know that Singaporeans usually aren't so fast," said Mr Koh, an avid runner.

The bank officer checked the runners' bib numbers against official race records on the marathon's website and found that some had skipped a few checkpoints along the route.

To complete the full 42.195km marathon, a runner needs to pass 10 checkpoints starting from the 5km mark, and have his timing logged at each of them.

Adding that some runners had passed only the 5km and 10km marks and then gone straight to the 35km mark, missing five checkpoints in between, Mr Koh commented: "They just want the finisher tee, medal and the bragging rights... (They) are not interested at all in completing the distance!"

But race organiser Spectrum Worldwide clarified yesterday that runners who had not crossed the race route's 13km mark - at the Fort Road entrance leading to East Coast Parkway (ECP) - by 7.30am were rerouted. This effectively reduced the race by almost half for them, cutting out the 17km East Coast stretch.

"The closed roads had to be reopened at a specific time in accordance with the requests of the authorities," the spokesman said.

The clarifications drew an apology from Mr Koh.

"I made a wrong judgment, and I don't feel good about it," he said. He has since removed the names and photos in his latest blog entry.

But wrongly accused runners said the damage had been done.

Madam Xu Xiaoying, 27, one of six runners shamed on the blog, maintained her innocence, saying she was rerouted by marshals.

In between sobs, she told The Straits Times: "I passed the 12km mark but was not allowed to enter ECP. I continued running and found myself at the 31km mark."

She added: "The blog post really hurt me. I won't join this event again."

Mr Edwin Phee, 38, who was also listed on the blog, said: "I saw other runners coming from another direction. That was when I realised I was on a shorter route."

The incident has also turned the spotlight back on Spectrum Worldwide, which drew flak last year after a time chip fiasco affected more than 3,780 runners.

Race participants said they did not know the ECP would be closed to runners from 7.30am.

On the SCMS website, participants are merely told that those unlikely to finish the race within eight hours from the first flag-off would be diverted.

"We should have been informed ahead of the race about which parts would close at what time," said Mr Phee.

The salesman said he has been participating in marathons since 2008 but has never been diverted to a shorter route before.

There was also confusion in the elite category on Sunday as two female elite runners lodged appeals after the marathon. It is believed the duo were unhappy about being led down the wrong route by the broadcast team, which typically accompanies the race's leaders to film the marathon.

Spectrum Worldwide said: "The appeals were duly investigated by the official race referee, including a comprehensive review of TV footage, and both were rejected. The decision was then accepted by both runners."

leepearl@sph.com.sg

siangyee@sph.com.sg