Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Sex, lies and video tape: do the ends justify the means?

Sex, Lies and Video Tape: Is it ok to lie for the greater good?

I admit that until a couple of days ago i had never heard of Mark Vaz. Perhaps that is to my own discredit, but the fact of the matter is i did not know his name. I did not even know that he was attempting the astonishing feat of running from Lands End to John O’Groats. The added fact he was attempting to take on the course record means i am further surprised that i had not heard of him. This record has stood for 16 years and regarded as a record that would stand potentially for decades.

The UK Ultra Running community is really supportive and also likes to gossip; so it was unusual to hear this had happened completely under the radar of a vast number of experienced runners. In the time that has since unfolded it is seriously questionable that Marks audacious claim of 7 days 18hours and a few minutes is true. This record would have beat the previous record by some 31 hours. This would undoubtedly make Mark currently the best UK Ultra Runner and one of the best in the world. Highly unlikely someone that would not have been heard of before by a large cohort of the Ultra Running circuit would be capable of this. It would be the ultimate Rocky storyline. Sadly it appears that this questionable run is beginning to unravel before Mark’s eyes and there is no Rocky script to be played out on the big screen. It seems far closer to a Walter Mitty spin off.
Gary Kiernan wrote an article for www.run247.com. In this article it highlights the questionable nature of the run and the improbability of the claims being staked. Richard from Beyond Marathon has also noted that the facts of the matter are Mark would have had to run 156 miles in a little over 24 hours having already ran 600 miles. This calculation is taken from Mark’s very own social media publications. Both Gary and Richard have welcomed the opportunity for Mark to prove his claims and from Gary’s perspective a right of reply on www.run247.com . For someone who wanted to promote the charity and inspire others he has gone remarkably silent. There has been no offer of explanations or evidence. The closest has been a picture of a garmin forerunner 305 and a facebook comment that he would provide the total distance of his run once he had added it all up. These facebook posts appear to have been subsequently deleted (or i am now blocked from viewing them.)I may be a jaded cynic, but if you plan such a feat and are doing it for charity then on both stages you publicise the shit out of it. You want the world and his wife to know what you are doing. The act of globalisation means that the world is now literally your stage if you want it to be. It seems to me that Mark over reached, wanting to be a player on a stage that he hadn’t even auditioned, let alone rehearsed for. Mark made a statement, a proclomation and it backfired. He started with stating he would break the record and complete it in 8.5 days and then smashed this further. At the point the mirror was turned on him the blackout has started. Calling those who question him trolls and seemingly indicating to provide evidence is more hassle than its worth appears to be very much out of character for someone who has been invested in promoting a charity and running over 830 miles. The whole affair does not add up. I can determine a logical outcome based on an assessment of the known facts. On this basis sadly Mark is lying and the his time is nothing but fictitious. We can skirt around this view point, but to do so is simply sitting on the fence and offers up ambivalence. Mark can correct this by offering a collation of evidence and then further backing this up by taking anyone of a number of race directors offers to run their events (after all if he can smash a 16 year old record his presence at races will be, i’m sure, in demand.)

With extreme records comes extreme scrutiny and Mark must have anticipated this. I suspect he probably thought it was an obscure record that only a small handful of people would ever hear he had claimed to beat. Deferring sending evidence of his other “achievements” to Guiness World Records further perpetuates the myth; after all on this basis his records have not yet been refuted, but... and this is key... neither have they been validated. I feel for those duped by Mark and i am sure it will be hard for them to realise the truth, but i believe it is important the truth does come out. Mark can remedy the situation in a second. I always tell my children to be honest and say sorry when they have done something that the should not have done. I never say there wont be consequences, but that i will respect them. In an odd sort of way the same applies to Mark. In the face of such vehement anger and disbelief if he comes forward and explains and apologises then i will respect that and hopefully we can support him to realise that offering up your best is more important than fabricating the unachievable. Conversely if he demonstrates the proof then wow... i mean seriously amazing stuff, but i repeat my very firm position that he did not achieve what he claims. His silence should not be accepted as “avoiding the trolls.” He has made a bold claim and now has a responsibilty to that claim. Interestingly that at the time of writing this he has further locked his facebook status. As early as Lunch time today many of his posts were public and this included a post showing the time of his alleged completion of LEJOG. As of now you can see none of these posts. Such a silence is more than defensive. It strikes of a manner of building walls around himself in the hope that people will almost ignore his claim and go away.

So the real purpose of my musings is this... Does it really matter that Mark has lied (my assertion), who really cares? My simple answer is Yes it matters and we should all care and it. When you set out to inspire others you set a chain of events into motion that you are responsible for. I dont really care that he had endorsements and provision of kit. At the end of the day anyone who has endorsed Mark will make their own determinations on this whole affair. Where my gripe comes is what message does he send to those he “inspires”? These ramblings are not directly to Mark in isolation, but to every cheat on the planet who thinks its ok and no one got hurt.Some may say that Make A Wish have received a large number of donations and so no one got hurt. In this case the end cannot justify the means. On their website Make A Wish state “We can’t grant wishes without people like you.” They go on on their website to say the following:

We go above and beyond to grant very special wishes to very special children; their dreams made a reality at a time when they need it most.

Because a child’s life shouldn’t be about illness, hospitals and diagnosis – it should be about wonder, joy and hope.
We’ve seen the effects a wish can have on a seriously ill child: from creating incredible memories, building confidence and bringing happiness, to providing respite from the daily struggles that come with a life-threatening condition.
We know what wishes can give, and this is the driving force behind why we continue to do what we do.


I love this sentiment and whole heartedly agree. As a parent the thought of losing my children makes my head spin and stomache churn. The courage children with life limiting illnesses show is way beyond enduring the pain or i may experience running. Yet strangely the battles of the ordinary provides inspiration to people to keep fighting. For children and their families the knowledge that others care enough to take on amazing feats, pushing themselve to their limits and showing the impossible can be achieved is often an inspiration to keep fighting their own demons and illnesses. If even one person is inspired by something i or others do and this gives them the energy to fight a little harder, or a little longer then i am overwhelmed and priviledged that we get to help in that way. The same sentiment applies to Mark and others who claim to inspire, but in reality cheat. The consequence to those invested in his journey, when they realise the only way it was achieved is in a shroud of deceipt, may be catastrophic. Their own self believe may extinguish and the desire to fight that little harder may be lost.

We as human beings must not underestimate the Butterfly effect of our actions. The action to promote awareness and inspire carries a responsibilty for the better or the worse. If we lose faith/hope then all of us lose something in our ability to dream and believe in achieving the impossible. The world for me would be a lot poorer for that loss of hope and belief. I for one want to put in the sweat and the graft and know that what ever end results i get are because i earnt them. I want to show my children and those around me that you get what you give. I want those around me to know i try to be the best i can be. I want to be inspired by my friends and in awe of their dedication. The end results are a side product and not particularly the key element that inspires. I think this is where people like Mark get confused and i hope i am correct in this assertion. Posting a finish time is not what impresses. For the Ultra Community a well documented effort of struggle and determination would have inspired us all that little bit more. Our jaws would have dropped if the time claimed was evidenced, but outcome regardless we would have stood united to applaud an amazing effort. It is the journey that would have impressed and not the destination. I think this is the point that Mark has lost. That and the fact no one runs the claimed paces in a bomber jacket.

The future of all sporting achievements rest for me in the tenents of Taekwondo:
• Courtesy
• Integrity
• Perseverence
• Self Control
• Indomitable Spirit

Sadly in this recent controversy none of these qualities have been shown. I hope that in this particularly case the claim is so ludicrous and so quickly disputed that it will not impact on others faith in theirs and others ability to exercise these qualities. Yet we all know that if you are lied to enough times then distrust becomes ingrained. For the impressionable the act of cheating may be seen to yield rewards that validate the risk and for others it may simply dishearten them into ambivalence. A world full of ambivalent people void of passion and dedication would be a very bleak thing.

This world needs passion!!! We all need Goals and Heroes! Children need to believe those they see as heroes have superpowers. Children like those involved with Make A Wish need to believe that the impossible is possible. These emotions and beliefs are more important than a donation figure on a just giving page or personal charitable donations. When we lie, cheat and deceive (whatever the reason) we risk taking away the belief in ‘magic’ from people. That can never be a good thing and as such the end can never justify the means. For me therefore the greatest act of courage now would be for Mark to come forward and provide all evidence for scrutiny, or acknowledge and apologise for the lie he has professed. I believe he has lied (until i am convinced otherwise.) I would therefore suggest if he wants to inspire others the greatest act of bravery would be now not to hide away from social media, but to embrace it and tell the truth. I am sure in that act he would inspire more people than the proclomation of an unknown average runner taking down a 16 year old record believed by many to be largely untouchable. What ever happens the passion of the Ultra Running Community rallying round to ensure that the genuine record is not at risk and having the desire to promote integrity keeps my faith in humanity.

Step forward Mark as everyone deserves to know the truth. I urge others not to resort to mud slinging and remember what this is really about. Upholding our own integrity has to be also be ensured whilst seeking to challenge the ridiculous claims. If Mark comes forward then he can show children its ok to believe and that when you make a mistake its ok to say sorry.