February 26, 2009

The Biggest Liar

*Spoilers ahead – don’t read if you didn’t watch*

At the end of each episode of The Biggest Loser, they show the eliminated contestant after they’re kicked off. A few weeks ago, I got annoyed with Blaine for saying he was doing an Ironman… and then giving distances that correlated to a half-Ironman. There’s nothing wrong with doing a half-Ironman instead of a full (heck, I couldn’t even hack one day of training for a half), but I thought it was really obnoxious that he fudged the distance and tried to make himself sound better than he was. Later, it was revealed in an online video that it was a trick of editing and not him lying outright, and I was somewhat mollified.

However, in last night’s episode, Dane was eliminated, and he talked about his marathon experience. This immediately made my ears prick up, as a respected member of the Marathon Maniacs had talked in January about doing the Arizona Desert Classic Marathon and seeing one of the Biggest Loser contestants cheat by catching a ride to the finish. She knew it was one of the black team members, but wasn’t sure which, and as soon as Dane started talking about the marathon, I knew it was him. I briefly wondered if he would pretend he had legitimately finished, and sure enough, Dane talked about “what a great experience it was to run side by side with my wife for an entire marathon.” Doesn’t sound like editing or missing words this time!

As I kept digging up dirt, I discovered that in a race report of the same race on The Melancholy Smile, Dane’s wife herself posted in an attempt to clear her name. The night before the Biggest Loser show aired with Dane’s “triumph” in the marathon, she commented:

“Hi! I’m Carli Patterson wife to the biggest loser contestant Dane Patterson. I had herd about your post and wanted to give you an explanation of what happened. I am so proud of my husband and his accomplishments. This has been an amazing experience for our family and unfortunatly this marathon has been a little exaggerated. In this industry you are always on a time frame and sometimes it is out of your control. We had stopped along the way to film at a water station and to make up for lost time our producers drove us ONLY 3 miles up the road. I am sorry if this has offended you in any way, but we are still incredibly happy about the 23 miles we ran. We were not listed as completing the marathon. Dane is an honest LDS Dad and I hope that they do say he completed this marathon because had time allowed he would have!”

While she sounds like a lovely person, I’m still extremely offended and upset. “Only” 3 miles up the road? Boy, if I could just run to the 23 mile mark instead of the 26 mile mark in all my marathons, I’d be pretty thrilled, would have a lot fewer blisters, and probably would have qualified for Boston by now. She tries to blame the cameramen, by which I think she means that stopping for footage meant that Dane and Carli wouldn’t make the 6 hour cutoff for their finish to count (on the show, we saw them cross the line at 5:53, meaning they just barely made it). My guess is that because they stopped to film in the middle (debatable, according to some first-hand accounts that there were no cameras on the course and only at the end), they knew they wouldn’t make the 6 hour cutoff and so accepted the ride in order to be counted as official finishers. However, that obviously backfired.

My understanding is that they were trying to finish before the cutoff time. I’ve been there. I tried to do a half marathon when I was injured from doing a marathon the previous day, and I powerwalked the whole thing, squeaking in just a few minutes before the three hour cutoff. Never had that cutoff been a problem for me in the past, and I went in with the best of intentions, but had some van pulled up to me at mile 10 and offered me a ride to the finish, I never would have taken it, even if it meant that I didn’t officially finish because I got there too late and therefore didn’t get credit for completing the NYRR Grand Prix. It’s cheating, and it’s wrong.

Carli tries to atone for their cheating by pointing out that they were not listed as completing the marathon. However, to me, this has the implication that they told the race directors or were otherwise upfront about what they did – this is not true at all. The course was an out-and-back, and many racers have posted their detailed accounts (like this one – see the second post) of how they saw Carli and Dane way behind… and all of a sudden, way ahead. Carli verified that they got a ride in her comment, but what she doesn’t say is that all the runners who realized what happened are the ones who turned them in to the race officials and got their medals taken away. Carli and Dane did not admit what they did until after they were caught.

In fact, judging from Carli’s own blog, she’s pretty proud of herself. The header of her blog layout features a picture of her and Dane with their finish medals, showing off their “accomplishments.” If it were just producer shenanigans and they were forced to get to the end for the photo op, she wouldn’t be so proud of that pic. If it were me, and I had to wear a medal I hadn’t earned just for publicity purposes, I sure as heck would not be publicizing that photo at the top of my blog. Besides, if they really wanted to make an effort, they could have taken the ride to the end, crossed the finish in order to get the film footage before the finish line closed, and then gone back and run the extra miles they skipped. Still not okay, and I’d be upset if someone did that and tried to count it as finishing, but the fact that they just skipped three miles and didn’t even try to make up for it really kills me – they didn’t even try to make an honest effort.

Finally, at the end of Carli’s comment, she says “I hope that they do say he completed this marathon because had time allowed he would have.” While effort is great, I don’t agree at all that that’s what counts. Can I say that I’m a supermodel because if I were taller, prettier, and younger I would be? Can I say that I won all the marathons I’ve run because had time allowed me to train harder and run faster I would have? I don’t think so. Accomplishments aren’t about what you could have or would have done… they’re about what you actually did. 23 miles is certainly an accomplishment, but it is extremely different than running a full marathon.

This fabulous site has a ton of information if you want to see for yourself. I’m disgusted.


37 thoughts on “The Biggest Liar”

  1. This is the first I’ve heard about this. I am so with you on this! It’s like me saying I should get my PhD even if I don’t finish my dissertation. That’s f-ed up.

  2. The show said he finished sub 4 hours at 3:53 so there is no excuse. I don’t understand why they would have done this. If they could run 23 miles in under 4 hours, that’s still a really awesome finishing time. Why wouldn’t they let them just finish?

  3. This was so frustrating, especially after Blaine didn’t know the distances in his half ironman, even if they did cut out the ‘half’ part in production.

    I feel like the show probably pressure them into a ‘marathon’ and an ‘ironman’ because they sound like big hard things to the general public.

    Good work on all the research, you were very thorough!

  4. Ahh! I was REALLY pissed when the guy stated he was going to do an ‘ironman’ and then threw out some random distances. But cheating on a marathon? Only driving 3 miles? WTF? Yeah – it’s awesome you lost all of the weight – but don’t LIE about running a marathon!! Good job on the research Laura!

  5. OH good sleuthing, Laura. I totally said to my husband last night… “Wow, he looks good but… not good enough to be able to finish a sub 4 hour marathon!” That takes some runners years to accomplish. Thanks for clarifying – as disheartening as it is.

  6. I still don’t understand the time constraint. Was it race-initiated or “oh crap, the camera guy only has one more minute of tape left”-initiated? If MY marathon were only 23 miles, I’d have stretched out my IT band 3 less times.

  7. I think this is more irritating than the guy I wrote about who bandit-ran the Boston Marathon. At least he finished the whole thing.

    I would respect them more if they had just DNFed and said, “Now we can train even harder for our next race and this time we’ll finish under the cutoff!” But this sneaky underhandedness…it stinks to high heaven.

    At mile 23 of my marathon I was fucking DYING and I would have given anything to take a ride to the finish. But I made it all the way to the finish line under my own power.

    And I, unlike him, did finish in under 4 hours. 3:52, to be exact.

  8. Good report. I wrote about it on my blog too.

    I,also posted it on Runner’s World.

    I think when you are new to the running or tri community it’s easy to mix up the distances and names. So you say you’re going to do an Ironman when you really meant the half or even the sprint distances.

    I, also think that the producers make characters out of these contestants. It’s Dane the BL conteatant, not the person. And when that happens they tend to bend the rules for the show. Like running a 23 mile marathon. Unfortuanatley, the rest of us live in the real world and don’t care that he’s making a show. He’s like the character in Run, Fatboy Run who didn’t really run the London Marathon either.

    So, to make this short. I don’t blame Dane nearly as much as I blame the producers that sold the show to NBC.

    I hope Dane and his wife come clean. I really do think they got caught up in something they now wish they weren’t in.

    I did see the comment you left on their blog. You were very nice about it, as expected.

  9. Will it make me super unpopular if I say that I don’t think it’s that big of a deal? It’s reality TV! It’s always edited and tweaked. I don’t take it too seriously.

    If you lied about a marathon, I would be disappointed. . . but my expectations of reality TV are much lower!

    Maybe we should all be more concerned that she used “herd” instead of “heard.” Just saying!

  10. Lauren, the show SAID he finished at 3:53, but the finish clock said 5:53. I’d assume since this is a small race, there wasn’t chip timing and that the editors screwed up. Even if there was chip timing, there is no way they started exactly two hours into it.

    Razz, there were no specifications by Dane or his wife on the timing restriction, but my guess is just that it had to do with the cutoff time for the race. If the race was capped at 6 hours (which many are), and they finished in 5:53 after DRIVING three miles, there’s no way they would have made the time limit had they actually played by the rules. Which sucks, but as I said in my post, it’s no excuse – I just barely squeaked by when I had to deal with the time limit in Staten Island.

    Sarah, I totally understand your point of view, and if it were JUST the show, I wouldn’t be nearly as riled up. I understand that reality TV is edited, and that’s why I gave Blaine full dispensation for the editing that made him sound like he was going to do an Ironman. What I’m upset about are the comments on Dane’s wife’s blog, which clearly state that she cheated and didn’t feel bad. Though yeah, the herd/heard thing was annoying too 🙂

  11. Oh. My. Gosh. I cannot imagine participating and that race and being so extremely frustrated to witness that. I think they should be honest on the show. The 23 miles are great, but not truly a full marathon.

  12. Nice catch! This is just like that time when I ran a 50K Ultra Marathon. It was in Phoenix, I ran 42K and then had to stop at the marathon finish because I was meeting my wife there, but had the time allowed I was totally going to do the extra 8K to make it an Ultra.

  13. i don’t watch The Biggest Loser (the show kind of scares me, actually … how quickly and how much weight the people lose), but i think its pretty sad that there’s a picture of them wearing their medals on the front of their blog. the last 3 miles of a marathon can make or break somebody–just ask anybody that’s had to be picked up by the sag wag because they didn’t meet time limits.

    thanks for sharing this! i wonder if the producers of the show doctor anything else …

  14. holy crap! This is the first if heard of this fraud. I swore last night the coverage said (written at the very end) that he finished in 3:53 and I was shocked at that… People who are willing to accept a marathon finishers medal fir completing 23 miles don’t get it. And never will. Too bad.

  15. Wow…I don’t watch Biggest Loser so I wasn’t aware of the story…but yeah, it’s a total disgrace to marathoners everywhere when you claim to be one of us by running only 23 miles. What the heck! It’s so NOT cool, and I hope they get lots of flack for faking it!

  16. Ha – I noticed the herd/heard thing, too! Good job with your investigative reporting, Laura 😉

    Forget the cheating part… I mean, if you trained for a marathon, and managed to make it to mile 23, why on earth would you let someone carry you the last three miles! You are almost there – why negate all of your hard work!

    During the Chicago marathon, I was re-routed to the finish only because they *made* me. Otherwise, I would have killed myself to make it to the end.

  17. Oh man, Laura! I can’t believe this. I just started watching The Biggest Loser this season and was so gung-ho for the contestants. For the most part they seem so inspired and committed. This underhanded sneakery is a real turn-off and I’m not sure I’ll be watching the show in the future. Great bloggin’!

  18. I was going to post about the same thing..I was very excited when I heard: ‘marathon’ at the end of the show. Then when they came across the finish line, the timing sign had a time of over 5 hrs..and then they said he finished in a sub-4 hr time? I was shocked and a little disillusioned. I am a slow runner but jeez for him to do that with little training and still carrying 300 lbs on him it heroic.
    Very well put post and I hope NBC acknowledges their mis-truths.

  19. I agree with what you said. 23 miles is really good. I don’t watch the show, but I presume it’s a huge accomplishment for them.

    However, it isn’t a marathon. It’s short. The people that went the full distance had their own things to overcome to get to the start line, and they had to make it all 26.2 miles.

    I’m with you. It’s cheating, and it doesn’t matter if it was done for the sake of TV entertainment or not, it’s not a marathon.

  20. Woah…I am dumbfounded…I guess I was a bit naive, I didn’t think anyone would even WANT to lie like that!!! I’m totally with you on that one…23 miles is not 26!

    How ironic that both of the liars were the on the black team…

    If I had been running in that marathon, I think I would have been super angry!!

  21. I hadn’t heard about this until I read your post but I totally agree with you! Taking off 3 miles is definitely not completing a marathon. It’s a real insult to those who put their sweat and blood in to make it the full marathon. Those are the people who can say they did a marathon!

  22. This is outrageous! Especially interesting is the part where Carli says her husband is an “honest” man (???) and that she hopes they say he finished it because he would have, if he’d had the time. There are a lot of things I would have done if I’d had the time…but I don’t go around lying about it saying I got my master’s degree (I would have if I’d had the time) or learned to speak another language (I would have if I’d had the time). This is an insult to those of us who really do run the full 26.2 miles of a marathon.

  23. What the heck?!?! I saw this episode too and they showed him finishing in 3:53, and I was like “Damn…that guy can finish in under 4 and I’m having trouble getting in under 5?!?!”

    I completely agree and I know people who weren’t allowed to complete Chicago in 2007 because of the cancellation, but were given medals anyway, and they all felt like THEY were the ones who cheated.

  24. Chaps my hide! Like Roisin, I was thinking how in the world could he finish in 3:53 weighing so much more than me and I couldn’t finish in under 5? Bad on the producers, but bad on him and his wife for playing along. I noticed that her blog is now “by invitation only.”

  25. That is appalling! I just ran a marathon on Sunday and my knee buckled at mile 22. I saw a few first aid golf carts go by and thought about catching a ride and calling it quits, BUT perseverance and persistence kept me going. I would be far too embarrassed to wear a medal had I not finished the race by crossing the finish line on anything but my own legs!

  26. Wow, that’s so crazy, I can’t believe he did that! I remember when they aired that segment, thinking wow that’s a really good time! Now I just feel stupid! I just can’t believe it. I don’t even have words.

  27. Wow that is disgusting. I am so turned off by people who just think a marathon is nothing. I have FULL respect for the 26.2 miles and the people who actaully TRAIN for it, and I haven’t even run a marathon yet!If you catch a ride to the end of the marathon, that’s cheating. Why would someone get in the car anyways after 23 miles! A real runner would want to finish!!

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