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Meet the Marathon Cheats

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Just over halfway through the 2011 Kielder Marathon in Northumberland, Steve Cairns was in third place and out on his own. As he passed the 14-mile mark, he could see the two leading runners, Ricky Lightfoot and Marcus Scotney, a few minutes ahead on the trail. Behind him, just passing the 13-mile point, were the chasing pack. Cairns knew he had little chance of catching the front-runners. He was equally confident that, with a six-minute gap to close, the rest of the field had little chance of catching him. “I’m just going to enjoy this,” he decided.

Cairns held on to his position and finished the race comfortably. As he crossed the finish line, he heard his result called over the PA. “I’m thinking, did I hear that right?” he says. “Fourth?” He asked a marshal to point out who was third. Cairns recognized the man immediately. It was Rob Sloan, the winner of a 10k race held the day before. There was no mistaking him: Sloan had a mohican haircut and distinctive tattoos. Cairns had exchanged nods with him on the start line; this was the first time he’d seen him since. Cairns placed a hand on Sloan’s shoulder. “When did you pass me?” he demanded. “Out on the course,” Sloan shot back.

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GettyImages-506979575.jpgCrossing the line: These days, after almost every major race, a handful of competitors are exposed as cheats. Photo: ZamoraA/Getty Images

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