Firstly, I doubt anyone outside of the US has really heard of Mike Rossi.  I came across the story in the Dopey Challenge facebook group of all places.  It’s a private and hidden group but it just so happens Rossi is also a member of that group and I found the article posted in there interesting and so I started paying attention (The original article has since been removed and this put in it’s place  

It turns out that a group of people on a forum called were investigation, trying to find evidence that Rossi’s 3:11 marathon time from 2014 Lehigh Valley race wasn’t valid and that he must have cheated.   It’s worth knowing that members of were instrumental in catching another cheat, Kip Litton.  After reading about it in an old New Yorker article ( last year I went to the forum and saw the fast amount of evidence that they had collected against Litton, including checking hundreds of photos.  If I cheated and these guys were on to me I’d confess straight away because they relentless.  

Rossi actually bought attention to himself by his own accord, upon returning from Boston Marathon he recieved a letter from his children’s school about unauthorised absences. In reply, he wrote a somewhat pompous open letter that he shared and facebook and tweeted a number of times (even though he claims now that he never shared it as per this interview) and it ended up going viral in the US.  The first accusation of cheating appeared on Runner’s World thread on the 28th April and it was long before LetsRun was investigating. In Rossi’s case it was the lack of other race results supporting that he could run a 3:11 marathon and the fact that there were no photos at all of him on the course other than the finish line that drew suspicion.

Race results of course can be subjective, everyone has bad races and sometimes we can do much better than we ever imagined but none of Rossi’s other results on Athlinks (a US version of RunBrition) even come close.  Rossi has made his Athlinks profile private now (Along with his blog and has deleted his twitter) but LetsRun guys have screen shots (Nothing ever gets deleted from the internet) and statistical analysis that has been conducted by a user called GregTR shows that “his average estimated marathon effort would be a 3:38:29 with a standard deviation of 7:47. What it means that running almost 27 minutes faster than the average performance is statistically inprobable. This includes his performances before and after the Via Marathon at any and all distances. For someone to go from and average 62.3% age graded performance to 70.2% overnight on a hot marathon day is nothing short of a miracle.” Fair enough, he might have done training runs in-between his races that account for the speed increase but you have to admit it does look dodgy. “Rossi said the answer to that is simple: he didn’t try very hard in any of his 20 other races.”

Then there’s the photos. LetsRun decided that if could show that Rossi wasn’t evident in any photos then it would be pretty damming evidence. Over 19,000 photos were taken by the official photographers at a number of locations along the course. They took the bib numbers of the 50 runners who finished before and 50 who finished after Rossi and did a systematic search of their race photos. Images were checked to make sure Rossi wasn’t in them and there number of photos over the course were recorded. Only a small number of runners only had finish line photos out of that 100 runners but more photos of them were found in the unclaimed photo bin. The unclaimed photos have obviously been checked for signs of Rossi by many people including myself. A script was then written to find anyone in the whole marathon who only had finish line photos. Again, there bibs were recorded on a spreadheet and the photos were diligently checked by members. All of them were proven to have more photos elsewhere along the course. Mike Rossi is the only person who ran Lehigh Valley Marathon in 2014 to only have finish line photos. There is also one section of the course where there is pretty much continuous photos. The largest gap in-between the time stamps is 6 seconds yet it shows about 100 meters of the course. Rossi can not be found any of those photos.

Pretty damming evidence but still circumstantial. The the Dopey Challenge group on facebook came into play. Mike came into the group and posted two attachments in separate threads, the first a statement about how it’s possible to improve with dedication and the second about judging people of being guilty before it’s proven. Both prompted discussion the Mike has since deleted but I have screen shots of everything here and here (and he contributed to this discussion that hasn’t been deleted)  He does disclose that he apparently doesn’t use GPS when he is races and that he has no GPS data for Lehigh Valley, even though he admits that he ran the race with a phone and a Nike GPS watch (Both are evident in photos from most of his races).  He certainly used his watch at Haddonfield Adrenaline 5K  because there’s a video here of him stopping the phone as he crosses the line.  He also mentions that he was using his GPS watch at Philly Marathon in an article for Runner’s World.

On Facebook he came across as well quite arrogant and an attention seeker  He would only answer certain questions and refused to even provide estimates of what his split times were in order to figure out which time he would pass each photographer.  In previous races, such as Philly Marathon, he literally poses for every photographer he passes and he is certainly not camera shy.  A cached image of his blog written when he received his Boston acceptance letter is followed by 20 photos of himself and he has quite a lot of running selfies on facebook (here, here, here, here and here).  Now, whilst I don’t really understand running selfies they’re certainly not a crime but it’s hard to imagine someone who likes images of themselves so much would be seeking out the cameras for a quick finger point or victory fingers (I don’t really understand them either but Rossi seems to like doing them in race photos) during the greatest race of his live.  I also find the lack of blog posts or social media celebrations about his most amazing performance yet that would have got him a personal best in every distance under 26.2 in just one race compared to all of his other race results. His blog has quite detailed race reports for some of his other races (including an entry for Oddyssey Half Marathon where he states that he was on track for a BQ but results show he finished in 1:47) but the cache for August 2014 shows nothing.  Now, I’m behind on a few of my race reports, I haven’t even finished Brighton yet, but there’s no way I wouldn’t be telling the world that I got a 3:11 marathon and a Boston Qualifier time.  There’s nothing other than one minor post on facebook. 

So, although the evidence is all circumstantial there’s certainly some things that just don’t add up.  The main issue though is the race photographs.  If I was him and I’d honestly ran the race of my life I’d be going through every single image until I found myself so that i could say look here I am.  Instead NBC Philidephia has reported that volunteers will have to go through the 19,000 photos and speak to 126 runners who finished near to Rossi in order for the organisers of Lehigh Valley Health Marathon organisers to decide whether the disqualify Rossi or not.  I’ve seen people cheating twice since I started running.  Both cut the course, one at Mo Run in Manchester and the other at Port sunlight 10k where a guy cut in right in front of me.  People cheat all the time in races and most of the time they are only cheating themselves (unless they are getting prize money or something).  If Rossi did cheat then it’s not only him who if affected, there’s a person somewhere who would have been next in line for that Boston Marathon place which went to Rossi instead.

On a lighter note, if you go to and search for Rossi.  It will bring up Mike Rossi’s finish video but don’t bother watching that.  Go back to 3:06:30 on the finish time clock and see what has to be one of the funniest race finishes every, involving a man and his dog.  Now I know why I don’t run with Gizmo. It’s some consolation that if Rossi did cheat, for attention or pride or whatever, in a a few months time I’ll have forgotten his name but that Golden Retriever (not a Lab, sorry) crossing the finish, that’s a memory I’ll keep.  

Also, Lehigh have already confirmed that they’ll be having mid race timing mats in future so if you want to cheat your way into Boston next year I suggest finding another qualifier race.