I have run over 15 marathons....some for charity, some not. The problem is cheaters, not charity runners. Cutting the course, taking a ride, etc., is cheating, pure and simple. You should be disqualified. I don't even understand why there is a debate about it.
That said, if you can not train properly to run the entire marathon to the best of your ability, find another charitable outlet. Even when I run for charity, I run (not walk) the entire distance with the goal of getting from the start to the finish in the fastest time I am capable of. That is why it is called a "race" and not a "fun run". Raising money is great and I feel good about it when I do it, but I still treat a marathon run for charity with the same respect as a marathon run for a BQ.
Many cheaters I have seen are not charity runners. I was disgusted at the number of runners in the New York Marathon that ignored the corrals and seeded themselves way out of order (by the way, I entered the lottery, just like everyone else). After 10K, I gave up my goal time because I was so busy running around people who lined up improperly and were walking 4 abreast in the first mile, and none of them was a charity runner. This discussion has lost the focus of the "cheaters" and turned to charity bashing, which is unfortunate.
I have done a couple of "Ultra" marathons, where they turn off the clock after a certain cut-off time. The runner gets credit for "finishing", but does not get an official time or a medal. Perhaps a policy like that in the marathon would discourage cheating.
In addition, I am not a snob, but the marathon is a running event and not a walking event and should be treated as such. Even the slowest runners should be able to finish in under 6 hours (way under...that's a 13+ pace). Your long run should give you an indication if you are capable of finishing in the alloted time or not. If you are not, you should pick a marathon farther in the future and continue to train until you are ready. Running a marathon before you are ready is a painful and unpleasant experience. If you are still out there after 6 hours, you are either not trained properly or you are injured. In either case, you should call it a day.....charity or not.
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