Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jedward: Did They Run LA Marathon....or Were They Teleported?!

By now, some of you may have heard about Jedward, the Irish twin pop duo, and their alleged athletic feat (cue soft-focus lens and ethereal visual effects):

Having arrived in LA after a transatlantic flight on Saturday, March 17, they spotted a flyer in their hotel room about some marathon taking place the next day in LA, and decided to just go for it on a box of Raisin Bran for carbo loading. Why not, since they happened to have matching Spandex outfits, and just sooooo happened to have brought their running shoes.

And they completed it! OMG! Look at them with their hard-earned medals!

Their tweets "along the way" lit up hearts and minds of Jedward fans everywhere (mostly limited to intellectually and culturally unincorporated parts of UK, let's be honest).

BBC News even did an article spearheaded by the story: "Can You Run a Marathon without Training?" that took the rumor of their completion of the 2012 L.A. Marathon at face value.

When I saw the story, I recalled seeing one of these twins finish alongside me on Ocean Avenue at the end of the marathon. I ran a time of 3:57:17, and there was a gun/chip time differential of about seven minutes for me, as I started near the front of the general bunch, and by the time my section walked forward to cross the finish line, about seven minutes had elapsed since the elite frontrunners had taken off at the gun.

As I read more and more stories about the marathon and the exploits of Jedward, two things:

1. They did not register for the race.

2. Their sightings do not indicate a completed run from start to finish.

First, the issue about not registering and running (a.k.a. "banditing") the race. This is simply a theft of the organizational effort supported by all registered runners who paid a hefty sum to have the street closures, the police and ambulance support, and the hydration and energy stations.

The excuse that "sure, people do it all the time" is simply not good enough. Sure, people shoplift and eat and run without paying all the time. Newsflash Jed-heads: it's still not OK. Only attention hogs like Jedward would be tweeting about shoplifting, dine-n-dash, and banditing a marathon, and have adoring fans bending over thrice and making excuses such as "a marathon is not really a race for most people, it's a fun run." 

Second, the issue whether they ran the course from start to finish at all.

Without registration, Jedward received no runner's numbers, and no timing chips. That means they do not have official times at the 10K, 20K, 30K, 40K, and finish lines. Therefore, there is no record of their running the race route from start to finish.

Jedward fans will claim, "sure they don't have official splits and finish times: they couldn't register so they aren't on the roster!" And, some of the comments by Jedward fans indicate they will take the existence of a few photos and a video by KTLA of Jedward running in their garish Spandex suits and dangerously spiked coif on the course as definitive proof they ran the entire course.

The lack of registration number and thus lack of official split times may seem a dead-end thwarting of any effort to verify their presence on the course. However, with little effort, one can uncover much evidence to time-stamp their appearances along the course.

The presence of registered runners all around Jedward in the photos, the availability of the registered runners' official time splits, and other information gathered from the photographers and the EXIF data in their photos as well as videos posted by Jedward themselves can be used to piece together their whereabouts along the course.

Result: they are either superhuman and will own human land speed records for the next two centuries, or they CHEATED and had a driver shuttle them around the LA Marathon course for their "appearances."


The first concrete piece of information in my LA Marathon runners post-race Facebook communication that led me to suspect foul play by Jedward was this:

I checked out Jon Chernila's official times on the LA Marathon Website and his times are as follows:

Great times, and specifically at "around Mile 13 or 14," when Jon passed Jedward, the actual time of day would have been 9:20 A.M., or @ 1 hours 50 minutes past the start time of 7:29 A.M. 

This made very little sense, as Jedward said they got into the general start group from the back. My start from front of that pack was already seven minutes behind starting gun time. The back of the pack would have been close to ten minutes behind gun time, perhaps longer. This meant they ran 13 miles in 1 hours 40 minutes or less. Not impossible, but very suspiciously fast.

Next, I looked at the photos found in a very broad search of "Jedward marathon" and found only less than ten actual photos that are reposted, cropped, shrunken into various versions. In some of these, non-bandit runners (who actually paid for their participation) could be identified by their numbers. The runners' official splits and the locations of the photos can be irrefutable evidence of where Jedward were along the course and at what specific time.

First photo that I was able to make the time/location connection was this:

The runner between Jedward in this photo, #12972, is Mr. Santos Figueroa. Here are his times:

This photo, at a former Blockbuster currently under offer for lease by Cushman Wakefield, is on 7833 W. Sunset Blvd., just past Mile 13 (Sunset and Fairfax). 

This places Jedward at midpoint of the marathon in this photo. Since Mr. Figueroa ran the first 10K and 20K at about a 9-min/mile pace, this photo places Jedward again at 9:15 to 9:20 AM at the Mile 13 area, about 1:45 to 1:50 after gun time, and corroborates Jon Chernila's report above that he ran by Jedward about this time at Mile 13 or 14. Now we not only have Jon Chernila's report, we also have proof in photo of their whereabouts.


Next, let's look at this photo, taken by bloodyeyeballs, available on Flickr. This is now almost Mile 22, in Brentwood. (I recall the scenery fondly as this meant the hill is still going up but the finish line was near!)

I wrote an email asking photographer "bloodyeyeballs," whose LA Marathon galleries have been excellent over the years and which I have heavily studied to prepare for my LA Marathon experience, if he could pull up the info on that photo and let me know at what time it was taken. Here is his reply:

So this now places Jedward (or one of the twins, the one seen in this picture) at Mile 22, at 9:46 A.M.

From Mile 13 at 9:20 A.M. to Mile 22 at 9:46 A.M., Jedward (or one of them) would have had to run at a pace of 2 minutes, 53 seconds per mile, or a speed of 20.8 mph for 26 minutes.


The final evidence of their physically improbable journey along the LA Marathon course comes courtesy KTLA, the local television station doing live broadcast of the event. This final nail in the JEpic marathon myth coffin was posted by none other than MrJepicFan, the official ID of Jedward PR machine on YouTube.

Notice that when these two twins were approached, they were running together, and the backdrop places them at Hollywood Adventist Church, located at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and the 101 Freeway.

As for the time of this Jedward sighting, the same KTLA video continues with a simultaneous showing of the locations of the elite runners, and the map shows the men's leader, Simon Njoroge, right at Mile 19. This allows us to time-stamp the video, since the elite runners' times were reported in official news bulletins by LA Marathon.

(from the KTLA video)

from official LA Marathon press releases of the progress of the elite men racers.

At 1:33:45 into the race, the Jedward sighting on video was at @ 9:05 A.M., and they were seen just past Mile 10, at Hollywood and 101.


Let's put this incredible Jedward journey together, and here are their splits from Mile 10 to 22:

Mile 10 at 9:05 A.M., as seen on live TV broadcast
Mile 13 at 9:20 A.M., as seen in photo and Facebook runner report with verifiable time splits
Mile 22 at 9:46 A.M., as seen in photo

For a time of 41 minutes, an average pace of 3:50/mile, and a speed of 17.6 mph, over the 12 miles.

(World record for a 13.05 mile half-marathon: 58 minutes 23 seconds. Zersenay Tadese.)

These boys are definitely JEpic. They not only ran the marathon on no training, they ran it so fast they might as well have had a limo driver shuttling them around. (And probably did.)

What's amazing is the press coverage of this "feat:" symptomatic of how "news" is disseminated these days, Jedward's tweets were taken whole hog without any fact checking by news outfits including the ostensibly reputable BBC News and ABC (Good Morning America). They got free publicity based on 99.9% probable fraudulent claims of accomplishment and diminished the achievements of all those who trained for months for the event with their claim of "we did this run on no preparation and looked like a million bucks at the finish!" Not unlike their "musical" career made possible only by the grace of Auto-Tune, they chose to "run a marathon" with limousine shuttle service in between points of freebie publicity.

At least give the stolen medals back.