During a long run I’m sure many have seen the sight of a bus or a friend passing in a car and thought to themselves I wish I could get a lift right now.
Well Rob Sloan thought that he could grab a lift for the last six miles of the Kielder Marathon in 2011, jump off before the end and still finish as if he had ran the whole thing. Finishing in third place Mr Sloan surely must’ve thought to himself that he’d gotten away with it. But then the questions started to be asked and his plan started to unravel.
First of all he’d gotten on a spectator bus and then jumped off to rejoin the race. Everyone on the bus had seen him do this so how he thought he would’ve gotten away with it is beyond me. Then there was the runner who had been in third place who set the questions in motion once he found out that he’d finished fourth. There was also the question of why Mr Sloan had been the only runner who had run the second half of the race quicker than the first.
The runner who should’ve finished in third, Steve Cairns, was furious. He knew fine well that he was in third place and he also knew that no-one had passed him. When he brought this up to race officials they had also been approached by spectators who had informed them that they had seen Rob Sloan get on and off the bus then hide behind a tree before rejoining the race.
Three months later (and having been kicked out of his club the Sunderland Harriers) Sloan was forced to hand back his Kielder Marathon bronze medal but still insisted that he hadn’t cheated.
Sloan told BBC’s Inside Out that he thought it was maybe a case of “mistaken identity”.
He said: “My argument is, ‘who in his right mind runs 24 miles of a 26-mile race, diversifies off the route, manages to find a bus, makes his way back in the race, lies in wait until the first and the second has passed then joins the race and finishes third’?
Infuriatingly Sloan had won the 10k race the day before so he is clearly a decent runner who, by lapse of judgement, decided to take a shortcut during the marathon and try to cheat his way to a podium place finish.
Almost from the start of the marathon three leaders pulled away, with Sloan falling back. At the halfway point the timings shown that Sloan was in eighth place. Then at 17 miles a course photographer took a picture of Sloan in a group which had crossed the Kielder dam. By this point he was in 10th place. However, Sloan had told Steve Cairns that he had passed him to take third place at 15 miles. The photographs proved that this was impossible and Mr Cairns knew this to be the case.
Steve Cairns said after the race, “I then asked him where he had passed me and he said he’d done so after the 15-mile mark, which was impossible because at the point I had opened up a five minute gap. He didn’t say anything. He just turned away and walked off. I informed race organisers of my suspicions and they said that a couple of other people had seen this guy get on a bus, get off a bus and run down towards the finish. He was then seen hiding behind a tree before rejoining the race.”
In addition, two of the passengers on the spectators’ bus described a man matching his description – with similar haircut, tattoos, and Sunderland Harriers running vest – getting on board. The driver also recalls stopping for a runner who looked like Sloan and who told him he was injured having run the 10K the day before.
As well as being expelled from Sunderland Harriers, Sloan had been banned from competing until March 2012, but said he did not view it as the end of his running career.
“I want to come back next year, and I want to do it for charity,” he said. “I want to do it for Help for Heroes, which is something very very close to my heart…”
However, after the event race organiser Steve Cram said: “I think before we would consider having him in any of our events we would at least hope he would come and apologise, and finally admit that his story didn’t bear any truth at all.”
A statement from the organisers of the Salomon Kielder Marathon said: “Last night we confirmed that the athlete who was disqualified on Sunday, after initially placing third, has admitted that he failed to complete the whole course of 26.2 miles.
“Rob Sloan of Sunderland Harriers had apparently made the decision to withdraw from the race at approximately 20 miles due to fatigue and after returning to the Leaplish Park area he decided to run the closing section of the course and crossed the finish line in third place.
Kielder Marathon director Steve Cram, who is chancellor of Sunderland University, said: “We are pleased this matter has been cleared up.
“Mr Sloan made a mistake and has apologised to us for the confusion it has caused. We were sure our decision was correct at the time and are pleased that Steven Cairns has rightly been confirmed as our third place finisher.”
But the story doesn’t end there:
Following his ban from competing Rob Sloan then entered the Great North Run in 2012 under the name of a friend, Ryan Percival. Sloan claims that he did so because he didn’t want the press asking questions.
One of the organisers of the Great North Run, David Hart, said: “If it is true I am disappointed he has done that. He was not banned from running the race and could have entered the ballot like everyone else and run the race under his real name.” Hart added that Sloan and his friend may be disqualified from entering future events.
Sloan is currently banned from the Kielder 10k, Kielder Marathon, Sunderland 10k and Sunderland Marathon. It is unclear whether he or his friend were also banned from the Great North Run.
Sloan is clearly a decent runner who clearly loves running so it’s maddening that he would choose to try and cheat not only the race but himself. If that was me, and if I’d gotten away with it, I would’ve looked at that medal and would’ve always known it was tainted. Hopefully he has learned his lesson and is now back to running and hopefully one day he’ll be able to return to Kielder and gain a medal the right way.