A serial cheater has been disqualified after placing second among women in the AppleTree Half Marathon on Sept. 15 in Vancouver.
According to race organizer WHY Racing Events, Emily Clark rode a bicycle for a segment of the race. She then stashed her bicycle before running across the finish line as the second fastest woman.
Race organizers were alerted by some of the race’s faster runners, who said that Clark was not among them earlier in the race. Photos from on-course race photographers were reviewed and did not show Clark among the race’s fastest women.
When confronted with evidence by race organizers, Clark admitted to cheating. She also confirmed she had been disqualified from several events over several years, including this spring’s Eugene Marathon and the Chicago Marathon in 2013.
Clark released a statement to WHY Racing Events and Marathon Investigation, an online group launched in 2015 that aims to crack down on cheaters in road races.
Clark, 27, is a Portland resident who operates a counseling service, Emily Clark Counseling, that helps women working to overcome trauma and eating disorders.
“I’ve chosen to come clean about it because the truth eventually catches up to you, no matter what,” Clark’s statement read.
She blamed an anxiety disorder for her repeated cheating.
“It is my intent to, with the help of my therapist and coach, work to disentangle my self worth from running and feel validated more often but only in truthful circumstances,” she wrote. “I vow to be an honest athlete from now on and I sincerely apologize to all those directly and indirectly hurt by my dishonesty over the years.”
Vancouver-based WHY Racing Events went public with Clark’s disqualification in order to alert other race organizers.
“It is clear that past disqualifications have not prevented her from continuing this behavior,” WHY Racing Events said in a statement. “We have an obligation to other races and race directors to assure she doesn’t continue to do this and negatively affect the results of the athletes who finish the race fairly.”
Clark said her first instance of cheating came in the 2013 Chicago Marathon, where she cut the course twice.
“I had a panic attack related to being overstimulated by the runners, the noise and the crowds and just wanted it to be over,” she wrote about the Chicago Marathon. “Instead of seeking help at an aid station, I cut the course and pretended everything was fine.”
Before the AppleTree Half Marathon, Clark’s most recent instance of cheating came at the Eugene Marathon on April 28. A photo on the race’s website shows her crossing the finish line at Autzen Stadium at a time of 2 hours, 52 minutes, 43 seconds. That would have been the eighth-fastest out of 625 women in the race.
In reality, Clark ran a short distance of the race, returned to her hotel, then jumped back on the course for the last few miles.
Clark said running, and finishing among the leaders, was a way for her to fight against the insecurity she felt about her weight.
“Though I can run fast, it is always surprising to people because, while I’m not fat, I’m not as thin as people expect runners to be,” Clark wrote. “So I’ve achieved a significant amount of validation and placed a lot of my self-worth in running.”
WHY Racing Events urged compassion for Clark.
“Our hope is that the running community in the Portland area embrace and befriend Emily and pour love and compassion towards her and show her that she can feel that sense of belonging, validation and self worth without having to lie and cheat to get it,” the race organizer’s statement said.