Select Page

On a warm Saturday evening in late May, Derek Murphy, wearing cargo shorts and a polo shirt, sat on his living room floor, his back against the couch, his legs stretched out, his computer on his lap. A baseball game was on the television, but Murphy, 49, wasn't paying much attention to it. He was too busy scrolling through hundreds of photos and combing over data on his computer. Occasionally he'd stop to sip from a can of diet soda. During the week, Murphy, who lives outside of Cincinnati, worked as a data analyst for a health insurance company. But in his free time, he pursued an unusual hobby: exposing cheaters in endurance races.

Four years earlier, Murphy had started a website called Marathon Investigation, and recently he'd been looking at the results of the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon, which had taken place on March 24. With more than 24,000 runners competing, the LA Marathon is one of the largest 26.2-mile races in the country. It's also a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon, the most prestigious in the United States. Murphy had been particularly interested in the results for a runner named Frank Meza.

Meza, a prominent 70-year-old doctor from South Pasadena, California, hadn't just qualified for the Boston Marathon, he'd run an exceptional time of 2 hours, 53 minutes that day, setting a record for the fastest marathon ever run by a man his age. This stood out to Murphy; over the years, he'd analyzed race results for thousands of amateur athletes and written about dozens who had cheated in various competitions. He typically starts his probing by looking at race splits—the time it takes a runner to cover a particular segment of a course. During many races, especially big ones like the LA Marathon, radio-frequency identification chips are embedded in runners' bibs and record when the racers run over an RFID-enabled mat. Meza's splits were consistent, showing that for the entire race, he ran six-and-a-half-minute miles. Still, several commenters on a popular message board for running enthusiasts, LetsRun.com, doubted Meza's result. They had posted photos in which it appeared that Meza entered the run from a sidewalk during the middle of the race, suggesting the possibility that he cut part of the course and then reentered.

On May 24, Murphy emailed the photos that had been posted on LetsRun to Meza and asked him to confirm that the picture was of him. “The above link is the sequence of photos that appear to show you entering the course from the cross street,” Murphy wrote. “I was hoping that you could provide some context. Was that you entering from the cross street, and if so, can you explain what happened? Did you exit the course for some reason, and for how long? Any information you can provide would be helpful.”

Meza responded soon afterward: “I looked at the photos and I can assure you I did not cut. I cannot recall exactly where on the course but I did pull off to pee one time I was not able to find a portapotty so I found a building wall maybe 20 yds from street. In 2018 I had a similar problem so I waited and ran into a hotel I lost 2 min this time I was hell bent on not losing 2–3 min.”

The next morning, Murphy opened his email to find a link to several hundred more photos in a Dropbox folder. They were taken, he says, with an official race camera set to snap photos every few seconds. (He won't say who sent them.) Murphy was anxious to dig in to them but had other obligations. He closed his laptop and took his young daughter to her soccer game. Then they met up with his wife and son for lunch. Afterward, they all went to the park. But the entire day, he says, he was wondering if the photos would provide concrete evidence that Meza cheated.

That night, Murphy set up his gear, and for two hours, using editing software that he'd bought online for $50, he spliced together 600 time-stamped photos to create a three-minute video.

Once finished, Murphy found that at about mile 11.5, Meza, who was wearing a black baseball cap, black shorts, and a grayish- blue shirt on top of a long-sleeved black shirt, appeared to enter the course from a sidewalk and begin to run. Assuming that's the place where Meza stopped to relieve himself, there should also have been images of him ducking off the course. But in the images leading up to that moment that Murphy viewed, Meza was nowhere to be seen.


Convinced that he had proof that the doctor had cheated, Murphy reached out to Meza again. “You were not pictured leaving the course ‘to pee,’ ” he wrote. “It will be my determination that those photos show that you cut the course. If you have anything to contradict my findings, please forward it on.”

Meza wrote back four minutes later: “You are clearly trying to harm my reputation and discredit me. I will no longer respond to your emails. You will be contacted in the next few days by my legal counsel.”

As a kid growing up in Cleveland, Murphy says, he was scrawny and socially awkward. He played soccer, “but I wasn't good at it,” he says. “Technically I was on the golf team. But I was horrible at that too.” He was, however, good with numbers. “I had about a 2.0 GPA in high school, but I did really well in math,” he says. At home, Murphy would race Hot Wheels on a plastic track and make graphs to determine which car was consistently the fastest. On his Commodore 64, he'd plug in football team statistics to try to create gambling odds.

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, where he majored in marketing and finance, he started a series of sales jobs. In the spring of 2005, feeling out of shape, he started running. “I couldn't run a mile,” he says. “I'd have to start walking halfway through.” To stay motivated, Murphy signed up for a marathon. Since then, he's run 11 of them. Murphy is a slow marathoner—his personal best is 5 hours, 11 minutes in 2006—but snagging a podium was never the objective. “I just really enjoy doing them,” he says. “Before I started running, it seemed unattainable. But anybody who puts in the work can complete the goal.”

To gather running tips and find out about races, Murphy became a dedicated reader of running forums, particularly message boards like LetsRun.com. In 2015 he watched the message boards come alive with debate over a runner who qualified for the Boston Marathon with a significantly faster time than the guy had ever had in previous marathons. The chatter intrigued Murphy. What struck him was not so much the did-he-or-didn't-he question, but just how easy cheating could be. “I was like, why are we so fixated on this one guy? Is there anybody else who's doing this?” He decided to examine the results of the first race he came across, the 2015 Fort Lauderdale Marathon. The race website listed multiple splits for each participant. After less then 10 minutes of scrolling through the data, Murphy noticed an anomaly.

“I could see one person with gaps—two missed splits,” he says. “And her pace increased significantly where she missed the split. I was like, hey, this woman cheated.” Murphy went on the woman's Facebook page and discovered that she'd run a Boston-qualifying time. This incensed him. It was one thing to try to make your time look better for your own vanity. But the Boston Marathon, like other elite marathons, caps the number of runners within each age group depending on their qualifying times. Cheating to gain entry was no victimless crime.

“I posted what I'd found on LetsRun,” he says. “And a commenter said, ‘Somebody needs to start a blog to expose these people.’ So I said, OK, I will. I'll start the blog.” A few days later, he launched Marathon Investigation.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a big race or a small race,” Derek Murphy says. “The point is to preserve the integrity of the sport.”

Photograph: Julie Renée Jones


Murphy's first order of business was to ensure that Boston Marathon entries went to actual qualifiers. As he caught more cheaters, the feedback he got from runners was mostly positive. “I love that you do this,” wrote one reader, responding to a 2016 story Murphy wrote about a Boston Marathon qualifier who he caught course cutting at the Philadelphia Marathon. “Keep up the great work!” wrote another.

Soon, Murphy was spending 10 to 20 hours each week investigating. In his first six months running his website, he accused eight people of cheating, writing about his extensive detective work in long blog posts stuffed with charts, photos, screenshots, and other corroborating materials.

In late 2016, a friend developed a data scraper for Murphy that pulls all the published race result splits into an Excel document, making it easier for Murphy to see anomalies. “If there are splits missing, or there's one split that's considerably faster than the other splits, then it raises red flags,” he says.

A few months later, Murphy was tipped off about questionable results from the Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile race. Jane Seo, the second-place female finisher, had run the second half of the course nearly two minutes faster than the first, an improbable margin. Murphy looked at race photos and noticed that Seo was wearing a Garmin fitness-tracking watch and that, in a photo of Seo near the finish line, the face of her watch was visible. Murphy bought the race photographer's high-resolution photo and zoomed in on the watch. Amazingly, he could see that Seo had run only 11.65 miles of the 13.1-mile race. On February 21, 2017, Murphy posted a story about Seo. The site blew up.

Seo was disqualified from the race. Several outlets picked up Murphy's story, including Yahoo Sports. The Washington Post published a piece breaking down Murphy's analysis. Within a month, Murphy's blog post had more than 100,000 views, and the site's daily engagement jumped from 800 to 10,000 unique visitors. The popularity of the site eventually encouraged Murphy to start a podcast, which he launched in December 2018. (WIRED was not able to reach Seo for comment.)

With more readers also came more tips. “People weren't just emailing me about Boston qualifiers,” he says. “They'd be asking about smaller races that I wouldn't normally look at. But if five people reached out to me because they were suspicious that somebody cheated in a race, I'd look into it.”

One of the racers Murphy had been watching for a while was Parvaneh Moayedi, a 56-year-old woman based in San Antonio, Texas, who held the Guinness World Record for the most marathons run by a woman in one year (168) and the most marathons run on consecutive days by a woman (17). She also claimed to be the only woman in history to have run more than 1,000 marathons, having completed more than 1,250 to date.

Moayedi owns and operates a race series called I Ran Marathons, which stages weekly marathons, half marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks. Moayedi holds her races on San Antonio running trails, but she was born and raised in Iran—thus the punny name of her series.

Over the years, fellow runners had flagged Moayedi's behavior at several high-profile races. In 2013, after logging a suspiciously fast split time late in a 100-mile race in Texas, she was disqualified. She was disqualified from the 2016 Houston Marathon after her timing chip failed to register splits at several checkpoints. Murphy also suspected Moayedi didn't run all of her own races, even though she's often listed in the results, in order to boost her record numbers. A few years ago, he noticed that she was listed in the results of an I Ran marathon in San Antonio on June 1, when her social media account seemed to indicate she was 8,500 miles away in Nepal, having run a marathon there on May 29. He alerted Guinness, but officials there reviewed the evidence provided and wrote back saying they had “not found any grounds to disqualify her attempts.”


Murphy was undeterred. He was set on proving his case and decided there was only one way to get her records invalidated: catch Moayedi in the act. He invited me to come along.

Sign Up Today
Sign up for our Longreads newsletter for the best features, ideas, and investigations from WIRED.

On February 16, 2019, I met Murphy at 6 am at a hotel in San Antonio. I'd been talking to him on the phone, but this was our first in-person encounter. Murphy, who has close-cropped, receding gray hair and a bit of a paunch, was dressed for the occasion in black Nike running shorts and a gray Under Armour sweatshirt. We made our way to the race site and crouched behind a parked minivan, slinking around like a couple of middle-aged Hardy Boys, then fixed our eyes on a dozen runners who had gathered at a trailhead. They were standing near a green, white, and red banner that read I RAN MARATHONS START/FINISH.

“That's her in the black coat,” Murphy whispered, pointing to a short woman with curly gray hair dressed in black track pants, puffy coat, and baseball cap. “She definitely doesn't look like she's dressed to run a marathon.”

The run began at 7:30, but Moayedi didn't join the racers as they ambled off. Murphy walked over to the start line, where several copies of her self-published book, Iran to America, were displayed on a folding chair, on sale for $20. He picked up a copy and began flipping through it.

Moayedi approached us and Murphy greeted her with a cheerful “You did all this!” as he held up her book describing her record-setting runs. “You're a legend! Can I get my picture with you?” This struck me as an awkward move, but I played along, snapping a photo of Murphy and Moayedi.

Two days after the San Antonio event, race results were posted on the organization's website. Though we'd seen no evidence that Moayedi left the starting area, she was listed as the 10th-place finisher, with a time of 7 hours, 29 minutes.

Murphy sent an email to Moayedi telling her what we witnessed and questioning her Guinness records. Moayedi didn't respond. I also reached out to her, many times, by email, voice message, and also certified letter. I wanted to hear her side of the story, but she never answered.

Murphy contacted Guinness again. The organization responded with a nearly identical email to the one Murphy received a few years before; there would be no disqualification. In late April, Murphy reached out to another Guinness employee, an adjudicator who, Murphy says, might be more serious about getting old records invalidated.

I wondered if he was obsessing too much over Moayedi. After all, she was doing good for health and well-being, and her race series allowed casual runners to try out long races without much pressure. “At what point do you just let it go?” I asked.

“I won't,” he said. “Not until Guinness takes a legitimate look at Parvaneh. Those records are now untouchable.”

Murphy was similarly focused on Frank Meza. On May 28 he posted his first story about Meza on his website. It included his video and some of the comments Meza had emailed him. It also reported that Meza had been banned from the California International Marathon due to anomalous split times and because race officials were unable to find photos of Meza running certain sections of the course in two races.

Murphy had also further analyzed Meza's run in the 2019 LA Marathon. When Meza was photographed reentering the course, he began running behind a man using Strava, the social fitness network that uses GPS tracking to record an individual's performance. When he's tracking suspected cheaters, Murphy scans images to find runners nearby using Strava. He then finds their names by their bib numbers; if he can find those runners' public Strava accounts, he can chart another data point. Using the Strava data from the man just in front of Meza, Murphy was able to calculate when Meza reentered the track. With Meza's data from the next timing mat, he determined a pace of 8 minutes, 23 seconds, nearly 2 minutes per mile slower than his average pace in the marathon's official race results.


I asked Murphy how it was possible, then, that Meza had recorded consistent splits during the race. Murphy has no way to know, but says that he saw in images that Meza wore two watches. He speculated that one watch tracked Meza's total elapsed time, and Meza would start the other once he went across a timing mat. He'd then get himself to the next timing mat—via bicycle or some other form of transportation—then wait until the second watch hit the 6:30 mark (the split time Meza consistently recorded throughout the race) before crossing the mat.

A day later, Murphy wrote about Meza again, this time accusing him of cheating at a marathon in Phoenix, a race that took place a little more than a month before the LA Marathon.

By the middle of June, other publications, including People and the New York Post, had picked up the Meza story. The Los Angeles Times wrote a long article that recapped some of Murphy's findings and detailed Meza's distinguished life as a doctor and coach.

Meza had grown up poor in Los Angeles, the son of Mexican immigrants. His father died when Meza was 4, and his mother, a seamstress, raised him. He spent lots of time at a local boys club playing various sports but didn't begin running until he joined the cross-country and track teams at Cathedral High School.

At Cal State Northridge in the early '70s, Meza mostly put the sport aside—still running some to stay in shape. Just before starting medical school at UC Davis in 1974, Meza met Faustina Nevarez at a medical conference in Texas. She was a premed student at UC Davis, and the two began dating. They were married in 1976 and had two children, a son, Francisco, who would also become a doctor, and a daughter, Lorena, who is a nurse.

When Meza started his residency in family medicine at Kaiser Foundation Hospital in LA in 1978, he started running seriously again. He began entering 5- and 10-kilometer races, and then the inaugural LA Marathon. His coworkers began calling him the running doctor, and he would usually wear running shorts under his work clothes. “For lunch, instead of eating, he'd turn his beeper on and run up to the Hollywood sign,” Faustina says.

In the mid-'80s, Meza began organizing races in parks around LA and later became an assistant coach for the cross-country team at Loyola High School. “He'd go run with the kids he coached at 6:30 in the morning,” says his son, Francisco. “Then he'd go see patients, sometimes run with me at lunch, then run again with the kids after work.” When he retired at age 65, he started competing at longer distances. In 2009 he ran the Santa Clarita Marathon in 3 hours, 20 minutes. By 2014, when he was 65, he was clocking sub-three-hour marathons. The same year, Runner's World named him a Masters Distance Runner of the Year.

When his daughter read Murphy's first Marathon Investigation story to him, Meza shook his head and tried to smile. “There's a lot of crazy stuff on the internet,” he said. But commenters on the LetsRun message board were ruthless. “I bet his résumé is a fraud too,” said one. “He's pathological,” wrote another. Meza was clearly rattled. “All kinds of allegations were being thrown at me,” he told the LA Times. “It was pretty traumatic.”

In late June he received a phone call from Loyola's head running coach. The school had decided that, because of the allegations against him, he would no longer be able to serve in his position as assistant coach. (Loyola did not respond to a request for comment.) He'd held that job for about 25 years, training hundreds of boys, mostly working with the elite runners. “He was devastated,” Faustina says. “It was more than running. He mentored those boys. It was his life.”


Endurance races have proliferated in recent years. Globally, about 1 million people run marathons each year, up from about 500,000 in 2001. And with that explosion in participation seems to have come a rash of cheating. In September 2018, more than 5,000 runners were disqualified from the Mexico City Marathon for course cutting. Just two months later, 258 runners at a half marathon in Shenzhen, China, were disqualified after traffic cameras and photographers caught them cutting through bushes. This April, three runners were disqualified from Boston, one for recruiting a faster competitor to run as a proxy (known in racing as a mule) and two for forging their personal-best certificates to meet the Boston Marathon's qualification standard. Murphy argues that his work helps understaffed race officials catch the cheating that seems to have become endemic in the sport.

Murphy mostly blames social media for the compulsion to cheat. “Amateur athletes cheat for the likes,” he says. But social media likes can just as quickly turn to hate. In 2018, Murphy accused Maude Gorman, a runner who'd finished second at an ultramarathon in Maine, of cutting the course. She was later disqualified from the race and confessed that she had, in fact, skipped parts of the course. “Shame is powerful,” she wrote last summer in an Instagram post. “And after cheating in a few ultra-marathons … I wasn't sure how to deal with the overwhelming sense of shame placed on me … I was standing on a bridge, ready to commit suicide.”

Later, I reached out to Gorman via Instagram private message, where she described the effect the aftermath of Murphy's revelation had on her. “I do believe [Murphy] created an atmosphere online where cyberbullying and harassment became a valid ‘punishment’ for those on his site,” Gorman told me. “This is one of the reasons I struggled with wanting to commit suicide.”

One of Murphy's sharpest critics is Scott Kummer, a lawyer in Chicago whom Murphy invited to be his cohost on his Marathon Investigation podcast. The show explores famous cheating cases, and often the pair butt heads. (“I wanted somebody to debate with on the show,” Murphy says.) “There's a fine line between newsworthiness and creating an internet pile-on for an otherwise sad person,” Kummer told me. “If it's an elite runner who's caught, that seems OK. But if it's just Joe Average, who are we really helping with that? Anybody who goes to great lengths to cheat in a marathon probably has some issues to begin with, and having 4 million people on Facebook talk about what a piece of garbage they are isn't good.”

Murphy is unyielding. “It doesn't matter if it's a big race or small race,” he told me. “If somebody is reaching the podium and they cheated, it's wrong. The point is to preserve the integrity of the sport.”

On June 28, officials from the Conqur Endurance Group, the organizers of the Los Angeles Marathon, emailed a statement to the media that read, “Dr. Frank Meza violated a number of race rules during the 2019 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, including re-entering the course from a position other than where he left it.” They disqualified him and invalidated his race results.

Murphy felt vindicated. But he wasn't satisfied. He spent a few days looking into some of Meza's earlier results, and on July 3 he wrote on his website that he had several photos of Meza from the 2017 LA Marathon that showed him off the course.

The next morning, July 4, Murphy posted another story, titled “‘Frank on a Bike’ Evidence Can't Be Dismissed.” In the post, Murphy called out a man who headed a running club that Meza had helped found in the '70s and who had said to a television reporter, “Until I get a more deeper understanding, I support Frank.” It seemed Murphy would not be satisfied until every last person—friend or foe—condemned Meza. “After multiple disqualifications, a strong statement by the LA Marathon, and a large amount of photographic evidence, Frank still has his defenders,” he wrote.

In the story, Murphy included a picture that he insisted was Meza riding a bike during the 2014 San Francisco Marathon. “The bike rider is Frank. 100%. It is irrefutable,” he wrote. “No one can question the evidence. There are no excuses to explain this.”

At about 8:30 that same morning, Meza left his house in South Pasadena. For several days, he'd been cooped up inside, trying to avoid TV vans parked outside his home. “I'm gonna go for a short run,” he told his wife. “And then we'll go get some lunch.”

“That sounds good,” said Faustina.

“I love you,” Meza said.

Meza's neighbors were already pulling out their grills and setting up decorations for the holiday. Kids were riding bicycles up and down the street.


Driving his wife's car, he headed to Frogtown, the neighborhood where he had grown up. He parked, then started on a running trail that winds by the Arroyo Seco, where the dry riverbed meets the Los Angeles River. He made his way along the path above the river, then he stopped at a bridge near Dodger Stadium and leaped off. He was killed on impact.

A few months after Meza's death, I went to meet his family in South Pasadena. Faustina greeted me at the door and welcomed me inside, to the living room, where she had put out chips and guacamole. Frank Meza collected art, and the home is decorated with several original paintings by Latino artists, including one that depicts a running race in a pastel city with Day of the Dead skeletons cheering on the competitors. On a large shelf in one room were dozens of Meza's trophies. Above a pile of medals was a framed photo of Meza running. In a corner of one room was a large photo of Meza, beneath it incense, several crosses, and a photo of a saint. Beside it a wreath of red roses.

Faustina, who was wearing blue jeans and a blue button-down shirt, has graying hair and brown eyes. She offered me a glass of water, and soon her son and daughter, and Francisco's wife, Sara Tartof, joined us.

Over two hours, Meza's family told me dozens of stories. As a family doctor, Frank Meza would give people free care and make house calls. “He sutured lacerations right at our dining room table,” Francisco said. “He'd make big pots of soup to bring to his patients,” Lorena added. They described how Meza rarely missed his daily run and read every book on the sport. Faustina learned, after Meza died, that he'd been paying to support kids' running camps. “I didn't even know about that until they came up and thanked me at the funeral,” Faustina said.

Nearly 1,000 people attended his funeral, including Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, as well as several of Meza's former high school classmates. “All these old men spontaneously stood up and sang the Cathedral fight song,” Faustina said.

“All the stories were about how engaged he was in the community,” Tartof said of the anecdotes told at the funeral. “Which is something that's really being lost. Now there are online communities.”

“What happened to him online … ” Francisco interjected.

“If what happened to Frank happened physically and not in the virtual world,” Faustina added, wiping away tears, “they would all be in jail.”

Frank Meza’s family: his daughter, Lorena; wife, Faustina; and son, Francisco. “He was a man of integrity,” Faustina says.

Photograph: Kayla Reefer

At some point on July 4, before Meza got out of the car, he'd recorded a video and left it on the front seat. On it, he apologized to his family for what he was about to do. He told them he loved them. “I can't go on with life with the whole world attacking me,” he said. “It feels like it's never going to stop, and I can't be pushed down any further. I just can't continue like this.”

The family blamed Derek Murphy for inciting the hate. They felt that if Murphy had just let it go, the story would have gone away and Meza would have been able to recover and go on with his life.

“He was obsessed,” Tartof said. “What motivates him? He finds pleasure inflicting pain and shame on others.”

Faustina grabbed her daughter's arm and her eyes welled. “He was a man of integrity,” she said.

“Frank was one of the good guys,” said Tartof, who was also crying. “He was one of the good guys in this world.”

On the evening of July 4, Murphy and his daughter went to King's Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio, to watch fireworks. Shortly before the first bottle rockets were launched, he stepped into the restroom and started scrolling on his phone. On LetsRun, somebody had posted the news of Meza's suicide. “I thought, this is just a horrible joke,” Murphy says. “At first, I didn't want to believe it.”

He walked back outside into the humid evening. Wanting to be present with his daughter, he blocked the news from his mind and sat in the cool grass. They watched the sky light up yellow, red, and green. When he walked into his house a few hours later, he opened his computer on his desk and looked at his email. He'd received several media requests asking him to comment. “That's when I believed it,” he says.


First, he went into crisis management. He emailed a friend, somebody who helps moderate his Facebook page, alerting them to what had happened. “If things blow up,” he said, “make sure people are being respectful in the comments.” Then he walked over to his couch, sank into the cushions, and sobbed.

The next day, Murphy wrote on his website: “I am deeply saddened to learn of Frank Meza's death. My heart goes out to his family and friends, and I wish for everyone to be respectful and to keep his loved ones in mind. There will be a time for comment and a broader discussion, but at this point, I feel that we should all allow those close to Frank the space to grieve. At this time, I will have no further comments to the media.”

Faustina Meza has dedicated a corner of the living room to trophies, photographs, and other mementos of her husband's life.Photograph: Kayla Reefer

For several weeks, Murphy stayed quiet. But other people in the running community were speaking out. Several tweeted directly at Murphy, unleashing a slew of hateful comments. “Your pursuits are neither noble nor justifiable,” wrote one user. “You are a worthless loser with nothing better to do.” “Shame on you! His blood is on your hands,” wrote another. “Great reporting on Frank Meza,” wrote yet another. “Whose life are you destroying next?”

Other people offered suggestions for preventing something like Meza's death from happening in the future. “Let's put pressure on race directors to put on quality races and catch & ban cheaters,” wrote another person on Twitter. “Why is some rando data analyst doing the job of race directors?” (For its part, the LA Marathon says it is taking steps to prevent cheating but has not publicly disclosed what they are.)

Murphy also had defenders, several of whom wrote him encouraging notes via email and social media. A few months after Meza's death, I ran into Bart Yasso, a famed runner and running journalist. “People shouldn't gang up on people on the internet,” he said. “But we don't want anybody cheating. Derek does amazing work, and I admire him. He has a place. Maybe more races should be reaching out to him.”

Relics of Meza's marathon career.Photograph: Kayla Reefer

For a few months after Meza's death, Murphy saw a therapist. “There were hours—days—when I broke down,” he says. “I'm not comparing it to what his family went through, but it was traumatic.” He considered shutting the site down, but after receiving support from fans, decided against it. “Intellectually I knew that I didn't do anything wrong,” he says. “Other journalists told me I didn't do anything wrong.” And Murphy still believed the work was important.


On August 2, he posted a story to Marathon Investigation that recapped his probe of Meza. In it he defended himself. “Meza's family says that he was harassed and bullied,” he wrote. “They say that they knew that this was taking a toll on Frank … I strive to be fair and complete in my reporting. I don't embellish or sensationalize. I didn't show up at Frank's door. Writing factual articles is not harassment or cyberbullying by even the most liberal of definitions.” He also included this note: “Integrity Matters. It matters as much now as it did on July 3rd. The tragic story of Frank Meza does not change that. Marathon Investigation is not shutting down. I believe that my reporting on Frank Meza was appropriate.”

Not long after, Murphy was publishing several stories a week. On the evening of October 23, he forwarded me an email with no comment, just a note from the PR department at Guinness. It read, “After further review from our Records Management Team, we can now confirm that Parvaneh no longer holds the titles for Most Marathon Run in One Year (Female) and Most consecutive days to run an official marathon (female).” (Guinness did not respond when asked to explain the reason for its decision.) I texted Murphy, asking if that meant the Moayedi case was closed.

“If she keeps promoting Guinness or makes any more claims about her marathon counts,” he texted back a few minutes later, “I could write more.”

Gordy Megroz (@gordymegroz) is a writer based in Jackson, Wyoming. This is his first feature for WIRED.

This article appears in the March issue. Subscribe now.

Let us know what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor at mail@wired.com.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/marathon-investigation-cheaters-racing-data/