Jane Seo is a writer for the Huffington post who blogs about food, staying healthy, and her new-found love for running. A week ago, she came in second at the Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon with a stellar time of 1 hour 21 minutes. Jane, who has written several articles for The Huffington post ever since her debut in 2013, won second place with a 6:15-per-mile pace that surprised many people, who thought her achievement sounded too good to be true.
Turns out, the reason it sounded too good to be true, is because it was. Jane had cheated in the marathon by cutting the course, as a blog post on marathoninvestigation.com would later prove. Jane confessed to her crime and has been disqualified. She has also been removed from the Dashing Whippets, a New York based running team that she is a member of.
She later uploaded a now-deleted apology to her Instagram page:
“I made a horrible choice…. I wasn’t feeling well so i cut the course and headed to the finish line. I got swept away in the moment and pretended I ran the entire course “:
Jane would have got away with cheating if it wasn’t for the valiant efforts of a private “Marathon investigator” who specializes in exposing cheaters who try to win marathon races through illicit methods.
What tipped people off that she may have cheated is the fact that her timing chip logged unusually fast miles halfway through the race. A marathon investigator by name Derek was quickly alerted to investigate.
Suspicions arose almost immediately after Seo, who is 24 and writes regularly for the Huffington Post, crossed the finish line in the 13.1 half-marathon division Sunday. Race timer Josh Stern quickly noted that her timing chip logged unusually fast miles in the second half of the race, when runners often slow down rather than dramatically speed up. He confronted Seo, who persuaded race director Matt Lorraine to keep her listed as the number two finisher, with her time just under 1 hour 22 minutes.
But after the race, someone tipped off Derek Murphy, a business analyst by day who has become the world’s best internet sleuth at busting cheating runners.
The marathon investigator began digging into Seo’s time and soon came across a prime piece of evidence: a photo of her at the finish line that clearly showed her race-tracking Garmin watch. He enlarged the photo, which showed the watch matched her time of 1 hour 22 minutes but also showed she had covered only 11.65 miles — nearly two miles short of the full race.
The private investigator also did the maths and it didn’t add up.
10K – 44:22
13.1 – 1:21:46
These results would equate to a 7:09 minute/mile pace for the 1st 10k and a 5:25 minute/mile pace for remaining 11.08 kilometers.
Very few, if any, runners could shave a minute and a half off their splits in the second half of a race. But there was more evidence.
Seo, who like many runners posts her activities on Strava.com, later in the day posted mile-by-mile records of her traversing the entire 13.1 miles, most of which run along Fort Lauderdale Beach. But Murphy discerned that the cadence numbers were more in line with a person on a bicycle rather than a runner.
Through the Flyby screen, I was able to confirm that she actually covered this course in the afternoon — long after the race was complete.
Seo later admitted she’d gone back and biked the whole course to cover her tracks by GPS.
Murphy had gained Internet fame by exposing cheaters in marathon races for several years on end. However, it looks like this may have been the most “high profile” individual he may have exposed. Exposing a Huffington Post writer brought lots of traffic to his website.
Murphy’s site has been blowing up since exposing Seo’s lies, and commenters on the web are excoriating Seo, a Harvard grad who regularly writes about food and culture. Her trip to South Florida was partially sponsored by Fort Lauderdale tourism site Sunny.org, Murphy said.
“Had she just admitted what she did, I never would have heard of her, nor written about her,” Murphy said. “But going back and biking the course to cover up… that’s unheard of.”
Murphy, based in Ohio, began his site two years ago to investigate claims of malpractice by runners aiming for the Holy Grail: attaining a qualifying time fast enough to be eligible for the Boston Marathon. He has even used Google Earth in one case to prove a runner’s “innocence” to claims of course-cutting.
Murphy said he spoke to Seo Monday, who maintained her innocence, and traded emails with Stern and Lorraine. He broke his story of her cheating on Tuesday.
“While I am glad that she eventually admitted to cutting the course and trying to cover her tracks, she only posted this after information was relayed to her regarding the extent of the evidence against her,” Murphy wrote on his site.
This needs to be a movie.