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A bus-hopper or a race-winner proper? An Inside Out exclusive

Chris Jackson | 15:30 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

Rob Sloan crosses the finish line of the Kielder marathon to the applause of spectators

Crowds applaud Rob Sloan as he completes the Kielder marathon in third place

Rob Sloan has been vilified as a cheat. The accusation is that while competing in the Kielder Marathon he flagged down a passing bus, jumped off near the finish and crossed the line in third place.

Although he was stripped of the medal he insists he won it legitimately and agreed to be interviewed by me on Inside Out so he could put his side of the story.

Even he says there's something dodgy about the whole affair. However as a former soldier in the Royal Engineers he asks: "Who in his right mind runs 24 miles of a 26-mile race, diversifies (sic) off the route, manages to find a bus, makes his way back in the race, lies in wait until the first and the second has passed then joins the race and finishes third."

Rob Sloan at the finishing line with distinguishing features. A Sunderland Harrier vest, earrings, distinctive hair. He is also wearing the Satnav device that he claims backs up his side of the story.

Rob Sloan on the day

Sadly there was no CCTV on the bus which would have finally proved one way or the other whether he was a bus-hopper or finished the race proper.

Yet stacked against him is a lot of circumstantial evidence.

Witnesses remember quite distinctly how a runner flagged down the spectator bus.

They recall him as wearing a Sunderland Harriers vest, earrings in both ears, and text-only tattoo on his right calf.

It matches Rob Sloan to a tee.

The tattoo on Rob Sloan's right calf

Rob Sloan's leg tattoo

The first thing I noticed when I met him was the tattoo. It looks like a paragraph from a book, only it's in Greek. I've certainly never seen one like it before.

As I put it to him: What are the chances of another competitor fitting that description? Even at those odds he did not waver. Whoever it was on the bus, he insists, it wasn't him.

Why hasn't he appealed against his six month running ban? Too expensive, he replies.

In his defence he turns to his runner's sat nav device. You can see more of this in the video clip below. The read-out shows him running at a constant pace for most of the marathon, but towards the close of the run it goes haywire.

His explanation is that it was because he was definitely running the end section of the course, which has tree cover and so it sent the device into a spin.

But the same evidence could be seized upon by those wanting to brand him a cheat. It went haywire, they'd say because he got on a bus and then hid amongst the trees before rejoining the race.

One thing is not in dispute. Rob Sloan can run a marathon distance. We put him on a treadmill for three hours and he did complete what is arguably a tougher version of the 26 miles and 385 yard run.

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He returned his medal and accepted a ban. No criminal offence has taken place, so there's no judge and jury other than the court of public opinion.

Rob says he wants some good to come out of the notoriety he has gained.

He wants to run the Marathon of the North in aid of "Help for Heroes". However fellow Sunderland born runner Steve Cram may have something to say about that. As organiser of both races he wants to see a full admission by Rob Sloan before he'll be given a place.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think he should upload his Garmin GPS Data for everyone to be able to look at.

    Then it will be sorted.

  • Comment number 2.

    Just watched Mr Sloan on TV. The programme and witnesses summed it up quite nicely as did the close up shots of him being interviewed. All the signs of a liar present. One thing to note. I've got a Garmin GPS sports watch. I've had it working accurately on the Metro, Buses, and even at 36000 feet mid atlantic through the windows on a Boeing 757. So Mr Sloan I don't think the 30mph signal from the spectators bus you caught would pose any problems!

  • Comment number 3.

    I'd like to comment regarding the Garmin GPS unit.

    I have a Garmin 305 running watch and the satellite retention is excellent. I can use it on any form of transport, including aeroplanes. It would have no problem continuing to receive a signal on a bus.

    In addition it is almost certain that the unit will have a google earth download facility, showing an almost exact track that the unit followed. It should be accurate enough to show the inevitable, albeit maybe just a few yards, route variation that the bus will have had to take.

    C'mon on Rob, own up!

  • Comment number 4.

    The Garmin GPS Data will also show the route taken, this could have been should during the interview. My Garmain watch worked fine for the entire course (even within the trees), I was checking it frequently to monitor my pace and the signal strength was fine.

  • Comment number 5.

    Rob should take a lie detector test.

  • Comment number 6.

    Has anyone spoken to the bus company? A marathon runner heavy with perspiration would be easy to remember. I'm sure there were other people on the bus who may also like to come forward. Surely the risk of being caught would have been enough to deter anyone, well most people.... If he really wants to run next year I believe this should be allowed, but he must raise money for charity. If he has cheated he hasn't brought the race into disrepute, he's only put himself down by cheating himself.

  • Comment number 7.

    For what it's worth, I use a Garmin 705 cycle computer and it routinely spikes some strange results. For example, I live in Bristol and my training rides almost always takes me out through Ashton Court, about 2kms from my home. My post-ride Garmin reports nearly always show my heart-rate spikes to more than 190% of the preferred training zone, for about a minute just past the entrance of Ashton Court. Furthermore, during one Etape du Tour sportive in France, I registered a downhill speed of 170 km/h. I know I was fast, but ...

  • Comment number 8.

    The Garmin log just stops at about 22 miles, so I don't see how it illustrates anything about "the last couple of miles of the race". Last time I looked, marathons were 26.2 miles.

    It looks like watch was either stopped manually or the battery ran out - I don't buy the 'poor reception' explanation. My Garmin 405 is pretty good at keeping satellite reception, only completely losing it when I run through an old railway tunnel on one of my routes. And even then, it soon picks up reception on the other side.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a former club athlete and long distance runner I would have liked to have heard the comments of the runners placed 5th to 10th to support those of Steve Cairns. When you are in the top 10 battling against other top athletes over a marathon distance you know who is around you and where they are in relation to your position. These runners will be able to verify whether Rob Sloane passed any or all of them after the 17th mile. I can only assume that the producers of the programme were happy to let Rob dig himself an even deeper delusional hole.

  • Comment number 10.

    This latest pronouncement from this individual have done nothing to support his far fetched claims, he got caught and should stop trying to justify something he cannot prove. I hope Steve Cram stands by his statement that he is not welcome at the Marathon of the North and I would hope that Help for Heroes have nothing to do with his claim to want to run for the charity - he is not worthy to be associated with those that this particular charity supports.

  • Comment number 11.

    You Take The High Road
    And I’ll Take…………….. The Bus

    I didn’t take a drug or act like a thug,

    just jumped on a bus, so what’s all the fuss?

    Got a bronze, and robbed a copper,

    of what was his, good and proper.

    Wasn’t my doing, couldn’t help it, you know.

    T’was drivers fault, for tempting me so.

    I play by the rules, don’t normally cheat,

    But I was ‘done in’ at Halfway, dead on my feet!

    Won’t happen again, never happened before.

    You got me all wrong mate, as I’ve said before,

    ‘Cheats never prosper’, I can hear my mum sing.

    (And if you believe that ‘Sonny’ you’ll believe anything)

    But no one really cared; they thought I was cool,

    Nothing illegal, just ‘playing the fool’.

    Even Steve Cram smirked as he talked to the press.

    So, I’m no cheating b**stard, I’m up with the best!

  • Comment number 12.

    Freeze-framing his mile splits then did he indeed appear to go through the half way point (13.1 miles) in 1:27 as it says in the full Inside Out programme. Yet he crossed the line in 2:51:01 so already he would have needed a huge "negative split" and of course he would have to have passed people "like a train" to do so.

    The splits after that indicate he is steadily slowing and by mile 19, I make him pretty much bang on 3:00:00 pace. The last split around 22 miles suggests he is then down to about 3:04:00 pace.

    So he would have needed to run the last 4 and a bit miles in exactly 16 mins - sub 4 miling! Nobody can or is ever likely to do that even when fresh!

  • Comment number 13.

    Having come 7th in this race, and remembering Mr. Sloane's distinctive haircut as I passed him at about 15 miles, I can confirm that he didn't pass me again on the way to the finish. I can also vouch for the excellent signal I had from my Garmin throughout this beautiful race. This guy is without doubt a very good runner, (I doubt if I could have run a fast 10K the day before the race and managed a 1.27 for the first half!) so running a marathon on the treadmill on TV to prove a point was ridiculous!

  • Comment number 14.

    I think the solution is that Rob should take a lie detector test.

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