Dog Who Ran Half-Marathon Accused of Cheating

A dog who ran a half-marathon last fall, becoming an internet celebrity, did not complete the entire course, says a website devoted to identifying suspicious race performances.

Samson, a four-year-old golden retriever, made headlines in October 2016 when he appeared at the start of the Tacoma (Washington) Half Marathon and proceeded to follow the runners as the race began. Various runners reported seeing him along the course, and he crossed the finish line with the event's 1:45-hour pace group, to the delight of spectators and race officials.

That upbeat story was punctured late last week, when the website published a post accusing Samson of cutting the course and "fraudulently accepting accolades and a finisher's medal."

In its post, the website analyzed data from the official race results showing that Samson crossed the first timing mat, at the 5K mark, in 33 minutes 12 seconds and the second mat, at 10K, in 1 hour 4 minutes 41 seconds. That's an average pace of 10:25 per mile.

"Then," founder Eric Estrada said in an interview, "things get wacky."

Estrada notes that there is no record of Samson's crossing the timing mats at 15K or 20K. The next split recorded for the dog is at the finish line, which he reached in 1 hour 43 minutes 54 seconds—an average race pace of 7:56 per mile.

To make that happen, Samson would have had to run miles 6 through 13.1 at a pace of 5:41 per mile. The dog's 5K PR, according to public race results, is 22 minutes 11 seconds, which is an average pace of 7:08.

Estrada also said he was unable to find race photos of Samson between miles 6 and 12.

"Cheating is cheating, regardless of species," Estrada said. "This animal's story isn't cute. It's an outrage."

After being notified of the report, Tacoma Half Marathon race officials removed Samson's time from the official results.

Samson did not respond to calls for comment.