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Francois Schnell (creative commons)

You can run with a lie but you can't hide from the truth!

by @garyfallsover
Friday 20th May 2016
 
 
After a momentous few weeks for records, with Jasmin Parris's super-speedy Bob Graham and Nicky's Spinks's incredible double Bob Graham, Gary Dalton asks whether a much more dubious record claim has damaged the running community and the credibility of records...

So it was all a lie. There was no record. There’ll be no framed Guinness certificate, no acclaim and no kudos. For a short period of time one man united the notoriously disparate ultra running community and for several wonderful days drew us away from wondering which GPS watch was the best and whether Tailwind was actually as important a discovery as the Higgs Boson.
 
We know in our hearts that Mark Vaz didn’t run LEJOG in a record time and even though his acceptance of that seems tenuous at best it really doesn’t matter anymore. We know. And thanks to members of this community he knows that he’ll never be able to fool anyone ever again.
 
But over the past few days the question I keep coming back to is how much damage this has done not only to the ultra running community but to the larger community who supports endeavours like LEJOG attempts. 
 
For every Walter Mitty out there there’s hundreds of normal men and women trying to raise much needed funds for a whole host of worthy charities and now because of Vaz they might find it that little bit harder to convince the general public not only that they’re doing what they said they’d do but also that it’s worthy of support. In a couple of months the details of what Vaz is believed to have done will fade from the public consciousness and people will be left with a vague uneasy feeling that he might have cheated people out of their money. Or on the other hand that he did indeed make a highly respected sixteen year old record look ordinary and that if a hefty average runner can do that then these records are just a joke aren’t they?
 
What he has done has not only brought himself into disrepute but he’s done something far more serious. He’s introduced a note of caution to charity giving which may not have been there before. And even if it’s only a tiny percentage of people who think twice before donating that’s still a loss to a sector which desperately needs our support.
 
But what about the damage done to our community? Do we now treat every claim with suspicion and require GPS tracks and signed statements before acclaiming great running performances? Should we examine the data track of Jasmin Parris’s stunning Bob Graham record before lauding a historic performance or do we take a leap of faith and assume that all is as it seems and indeed something amazing had been achieved by an athlete at the top of her game? 
 
Should we now look with a critical eye at the records of the past and ask ourselves how likely was it that Pheidippides actually ran all that way from Marathon and didn’t just jump in a chariot with his mate Stevius, taking a few etchings along the way wearing his favourite toga? After all the great God Suunto was still searching for a signal and his reliability wasn’t all that was it?
 
Do we assume that Joss Naylor hid down the shed and had a few crafty fags while everyone thought he was out running 72 peaks in under 24 hours? Or that Billy Bland took the Hopper Bus around Scafell in 1982 instead of setting a  Bob Graham record that I don’t think will ever be beaten.
 
Of course we don’t. For a whole host of reasons, only one of which is that if I lose faith in the incredible people who do this sport then what’s the point? Inspiration comes to us all from different places but for me a great deal of it comes from the actions of others. That’s not to say I’m jealous or envious of their ability and success but rather that their achievements inspire me to reach towards my goals. And that’s the thing that the Walter Mittys of this world will never understand, that the admiration of others for what they believe you’ve achieved is nothing without the achievement itself. 
 
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to run to Birmingham before work. On the other hand I might just Vaz it……
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About The Author

Gary Dalton

Gary Dalton is a rugby loving, crime fighting, white Irish Muslim ultra runner. Despite all this he's not a complete eejit. 

Gary is originally from the west of Ireland and can't actually remember when he moved to London - he blames a heavy diet of being tackled by prop forwards and potatoes for the memory loss. He hates going out for runs, canals and borderline hypothermia and loves ice cream and going out for runs. 

 
 
 
 
 

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