My Unexpected Connection to The Kip Litton Marathon Fraud Story

I just read a fascinating article in the New Yorker about a guy who has supposedly made a living out of cheating his way to sub-3:00 finishes in marathons around the country. Apparently Kip Litton has a habit of mysteriously finishing near the top of his age group in races despite other runners of similar pace failing to see him out on the course.

I was familiar with the name Kip Litton from the Let’s Run forums, but had never actually read any of the threads about him. However, for some reason the name seemed familiar to me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Tonight I figured it out.

The New Yorker article indicated that Litton had run sub-3:00 (2:54:06 to be exact) at the 2009 Manchester City Marathon here in NH. I also ran that race (in a much slower time), but it’s also the race that my students filmed for the foot-strike paper that I published back in 2011. Upon reading this, I knew that was where I had seen the name before. Part of the process of writing that paper involved me poring over Brightroom race photos to ID runners by their bib numbers, and syncing videos of runners at miles 6 and 20. Turns out Kip Litton was one of the runners for whom my students captured no video or still photos at either mile 6 or mile 20. We had either a video or still photo for 95% of the top 300 marathon finishers in this race, and his name stuck in my head because I had spent awhile searching through my videos for him. This doesn’t prove anything about whether his result in this race is to be questioned (he could just be one that we missed), but it’s interesting when something clicks in your head like this.

Consistent with what is written about his other races in the New Yorker article, Litton only has two photos taken by the official race photographers at Manchester (Brightroom), and both are approaching the finish line – none from earlier in the race. His Bib # was 195, and its hard to make it out in these photos, but they look like other pictures of him on the web. He was four minutes behind the woman in the photo at the half-marathon timing strip (she was the female winner of the race), and based on the race results Litton was the only finisher in the top 30 who ran a negative split. Manchester is a brutally hilly course, and running a negative split there is extremely difficult.

Kip Litton

Anyway, not sure if any of this means anything, but I thought it was interesting when I made the connection to why his name was familiar to me. Check out the New Yorker article, it’s well worth a read!

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



Comments

  1. More evidence! Great (non) find. I just came across that article on Litton last week. I wonder if he trains with Paul Ryan?

  2. Jim Hansen says:

    I had previously wondered if you had video of him during the race. I guess not. Here is my earlier blog post on Kip and the Manchester Marathon:
    http://recoveryourstride.blogs

  3. O fcourse, the thing to remember here is that this guy was capable of cheating because he is a good runner. If the article is correct,he ran a legit sub 3hr marathon and several close to that. He didn’t need to cheat much on the subsequent races to hit sub 3hr. This situation is analogous to “A-students” cheating on exams—they don’t need to do it, but nobody will usually notice.

    • The New Yorker makes it clear that Litton’s faking is nowhere near being limited to the literal cutting of corners in the course of a race. The guy routinely shows up wearing different clothing at the starts and finishes of races, for whatever reasons to do with his methods for beating chip systems. The lies come in layers, here, but it’s seriously not at all clear that he can run a respectable marathon, or even that he could finish one in *any* time at some point.

      I mean, as the article tells us, Litton has eventually admitted to *making up* the entire “Western Wyoming” marathon in which he made the mistake of assigning himself the winning time. He made up the entire race, including a field of a couple of dozen other names — names that never appeared in any other marathons, but for several of which someone did up profiles on amateur athletic sites. The Web site associated with that race was run off the same servers as the ones for his dental practice and Litton’s own “world record runs” site. This is faking on a level that takes a large amount of work. It’s not on the level of looking for where the course might allow a wrong turn. It’s way, way past that.

  4. Just finished the New Yorker article. Wow, what a dishonest jackass that guy is. Scamming people for contributions to cystic fibrosis and marathon cheating. So strange that he would travel and go to so much trouble just to cheat, how rewarding is that? But, I guess if the donations are flowing into your paypal account and you have no moral compass it might be worth it.

  5. William W Quick says:

    I’ve assembled a webpage detailing all the stories about Dr. Litton that I can locate, at
    link to worldrecordrun.com

  6. I am friends with Mike McGrath (the former Haverford coach mentioned in the article) and he filled me in on the Kip Litton saga last year. It’s a bizarro story, and solving the mystery is Mike’s white whale. I wonder if the New Yorker article will lead people to his photograph, and perhaps trigger some memories of seeing this guy heading on or off course?

  7. Kyle Strode says:

    Great work connecting the dots. I’m guessing that you were probably extremely close to uncovering the massive hoax yourself and could have scooped everyone had you not been focusing on the more noble enterprise of conducting your research project! Well-done, and thanks for the excellent shoe advice and great links over the past few years.

  8. Hypothesis: Kip Litton authored this post.

  9. Steve Geller says:

    Litton undoubtedly cheated, but just for the sake of being correct, he has not “supposedly made a living out of cheating his way to sub-3:00 finishes”. He’s made a habit out of it, sure. But there’s no way he collected enough prize money to support himself. The money for his finishes, even if they were legit, would be meager at best.

  10. Study of KLitton Running says:

    Thanks for sharing this! -study of kLitton

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