Runner—and food and lifestyle blogger—Jane Seo had her second-place finish in the Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon disqualified on Sunday night. Two days after the race, a part-time marathon watchdog blogger revealed that Seo had cheated and cut 1.5 miles off her course while securing her 1:21:46 finish. Not only did she cut the course, she covered her tracks on a bike later that afternoon to throw off her GPS tracker.
According to the Miami New Times, Seo was first suspected of cheating when a race timer noticed she picked up speed during the second half of the race. She was able to brush off his concerns and sought out the race director in an attempt to keep her listed at No. 2. After getting fellow runners to vouch for her, Seo took her place on the podium and accepted the second-place award.
Her interesting results caught the eye of Derek Murphy, who is a business analyst by day and, unfortunately for Seo, also runs the blog Marathon Investigation in his spare time. Upon reviewing some photos snapped right after the race, Murphy noticed that the watch Seo was wearing was facing the camera. After some zooming, he saw the watch displayed a covered distance of 11.65 miles—the course was a full two miles longer.
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This prompted him to look into her mile splits. After comparing her performances in the two halves of the race, Murphy found Seo ran the first 10 kilometers at a pace of 7:09 per mile; her speed increased on the back half, lowering her minute-mile pace to 5:25 on the back 11 kilometers.
Murphy then discovered that she had manually entered her splits on Strava (a website for runners looking to track their runs via GPS and post their maps and times) directly after the race. Seo went back and made another entry the same afternoon, this one linked to GPS, showing that she had run the entire course. However, upon reviewing her pace and heart rate, Murphy saw that her cadence better matched that of a bike rider than a runner.
Seo, whose trip was partially sponsored by a Fort Lauderdale tourism website, rebuffed Murphy’s allegations on Monday; on Tuesday, he posted his story. Seo cut one-and-a-half miles from the marathon, per Murphy, then later rode the full 13.1 miles on a bike at a similar pace later that same day in order to fudge her Strava entry. He posited that a potential motivating factor was that the Dashing Whippets, Seo’s running group, requires a sub-1:24:00 half-marathon to earn a spot on their Performance Team.
Seo confirmed the blog’s findings in a message posted to her Instagram page Monday night before later deleting it. (Thankfully, Marathon Investigator took a screenshot of the admission and apology.) In it, she claims to not have been feeling well the day of the race, leading to her “HORRIBLE choice”—as Murphy pointed out in a conversation with the New-Times, Seo felt well enough to bike the 13.1 miles later that day, after already running more than 11 miles in her now-disqualified attempt.
In the meantime, Seo reportedly wrote and deleted a pro-Fort Lauderdale blog post, was dismissed from her racing group, and deleted previous entries she logged to her Strava.
Correction: This post originally identified Seo as a current Huffington Post blogger; her last Huffington Post byline was in 2015.