Claims that some runners from Mysteruns club have used invalid London Marathon numbers since 2011

The leader of a running club at the centre of an investigation by the London Marathon has defended the number-swapping practice that is alleged to be commonplace among the membership.

John Humphries runs Mysteruns in Abergele, North Wales, which every year organises a bus for members and “guests” to the Virgin Money London Marathon.

After hearing allegations from a member of a nearby club, Athletics Weekly uncovered evidence of the possible use of invalid numbers in the race over the past four years.

The Rhyl, Prestatyn and Abergele Journal has in the last four years run annual reports listing 97 completed runs in the marathon by members of Mysteruns and those travelling on their bus. Of these, only 45 are to be found in the official results.

A local runner who wishes to stay anonymous told AW he was alarmed at what he saw when he travelled on the bus to the race last year.

He said Humphries, who is seen in the photo above sporting the vest bearing the name John, was wearing number 8533 from a previous year’s race and that the Welsh flag obscures the old logo.

He also said he saw Humphries and another runner “making up” a number for someone using one from a previous year.

After last year’s London Marathon, the Journal referred to three race finishers from Mysteruns, which since 2012 has not been affiliated to a home country association – based on information received from the club itself. However, only one of these was on the official results. Of the 22 guests travelling on the bus, only eight had times listed on the race website.

Humphries claims to have run in 22 editions of the London Marathon, but he has not appeared in the results since 2010. That year he wore 3169, the same number which a man dressed as Super Mario – claimed to be Humphries – was using in 2011. This is according to the official race photos, which also show a woman presumably legitimately wearing the number 3169 in 2011.

When contacted by AW, Humphries at first made some attempt to hide the actions, but later added: “I have done it probably twice. If someone’s pulled out of the marathon and not sent the number back I will run under that name. I can’t see a problem with that.

“I run a trip taking 50-odd people down to London and after they come on board some of them get injured and say they won’t send the number back and I find people that want the number.”

He claimed “it doesn’t happen every year”. However, AW has found that 12 of the 30 members and guests listed by the Journal for the 2013 race were not in official results. For 2012 this was 11 out of 27 and for 2011 it was 6 out of 15.

Humphries justifies his actions by saying the runners are often doing it for charity. “I’ve done it and I’m not ashamed of doing it because I raise thousands of pounds for doing it,” he said.

The London Marathon, on hearing of some of the evidence passed on to AW, said it was investigating the claims urgently.

On Wednesday (March 26) a London Marathon spokeswoman said: “The investigation is ongoing and The London Marathon Ltd will not comment further until the investigation is completed.”

Humphries has a bus lined up to take another group to this year’s race on April 26.

» This story (without the updated response from the London Marathon) was first published in the March 19 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine

» The picture above also shows runners from other clubs who were genuine London Marathon entrants but travelled on the same bus as some Mysteruns runners