Friday Five: Reasons Biggest Loser Daris’s 5k Time Is (Mostly) Legit
Posted Apr 30 2010 12:06pm
For those of you who don’t watch The Biggest Loser, last Tuesday’s episode featured the contestants running a 5k with some local citizens in and around the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
One of the contestants, 25-year-old Daris George (pictured at left at his original weight), was shown completing the 5k in 21:04, an astonishing 6:46 pace, especially considering he still weighs 214 pounds after losing 132 pounds.
His finishing time was so good, in fact, that it triggered a response from the online running community, who remembered the Dane Patterson marathon scandal .
Quite a few forums questioned whether Daris’s time was possible (see here , here and here ), but after some thorough research, I think it’s clear that Daris’s speed is almost entirely legitimate. Here are five reasons:
1) The Biggest Loser producers are not that stupid. They got hammered for the marathon fiasco. It’s hard to believe they would falsify Daris’s results to no good purpose.
2) His age and training regimen. Despite his original unhealthy condition, Daris is 25 years old and has been working out all day, every day, for about 4 months. When I went to Air Force officer training school at age 23, I was underweight and unfit. I ended up averaging 33 miles a week and completed the required 1.5 mile run in 9:10. And our physical training wasn’t nearly as intense as that on The Biggest Loser. So while his pace is still amazing, it’s not out of the question.
3) He ran back along the course after finishing. An eyewitness account by blogger Thin in 2010 contains quite a bit of behind-the-scenes information that isn’t all that flattering to the program’s “reality” (“Since this is ‘filming,’ the director had us do the ‘START’ three times;” and “I was smiling during my interview and I now know WHY the contestants always cry on the show! That man [a producer] was trying to get me to cry!”), but it does confirm that Daris finished the race fast enough that he was able to travel back along the course and meet up with other runners.
4) He ran a 21:43 5k road race the following month. Daris ran in the Arbuckles 2 Ardmore Race for Mercy 5k in Oklahoma on March 28. He finished 6th with a time of 21:43 . That’s independent verification of his speed (unless you believe this is some sort of huge Biggest Loser conspiracy), but it is slower, even though he presumably was even more fit in March than he was in February. The answer to that appears to be…
5) The Biggest Loser producers measured a short course. We don’t know what the show’s standards were for measuring the 5k course, but it’s unlikely they went to the trouble of using a Jones Counter , which is the approved device for certification, or that they used tangents to measure. While this is only anecdotal, The Running Woman has a post claiming the course was short:
“Daris’s time would be pretty darn great for a 5k. And OK, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that the Garmins of my DRC [Dallas Running Club] buddies that clocked 2.8 miles were right – he still finished with a respectable pace of 7:30/mile. But it annoyed me that they kept calling it a 5k when it wasn’t a 5k! Grrr.”
Mystery solved, I think. Daris’s adjusted 5k time would be 23:21 – still impressive but much more believable, and it fits better with his 21:43 the next month.