It was hard not to be amazed by the story of Robert Young.
The Englishman’s wife made a bet with him while they were watching the 2014 London Marathon that he would never be able to run that far. Young ran one the next day.
He then claimed to run 370 marathons in the following year, a record described in his book Marathon Man, before taking on a challenge in which he says he ran 601km in 88 hours and 17 minutes without sleeping – another record.
As Young took on the incredibly taxing running challenges, he was raising money for charity.
Articles about Young started to surface regularly in the British media and, in one of them, he revealed he learned how to block out pain as a child.
Young claimed he was regularly physically abused by his father, who, according to his official website, also sexually assaulted his sister, killed the family dog and tortured his mother.
Another article said that his father threw him down the stairs at their home in a suitcase. Young says on his website that at eight he “was put into an orphanage before being fostered at aged 12”.
His story began to capture a nation’s attention.
Young’s next challenge was never far away and in May this year, he started his attempt to be the fastest man to cross America on foot.
To do so, he needed to run 3000 miles (4828 kilometres) from California to New York City in less than 46 days, eight hours and 36 minutes.
A photo of Young during the run
— SKINS GB (@SKINSGB) June 8, 2016
The alarm bells start ringing
You could follow Young’s run via GPS but doubts were raised when an American runner who hoped to join the Brit in Kansas tracked down his van, as it moved, but did not see Young, despite his GPS showing he was still running.
His subsequent post on website Letsrun.com triggered thousands of replies.
Some of the GPS numbers didn’t add up, either, prompting his sponsor SKINS to launch an investigation.
In the meantime, Young pulled out of the run – 34 days and allegedly 2000 miles (3218 kilometres) into his journey – citing injury.
Young just before he withdrew
— SKINS GB (@SKINSGB) June 13, 2016
Despite his decision to quit, the investigation rolled on and the findings, released on Sunday in the form of a 101-page report, made for uncomfortable reading for the company and those who had invested either money or time in Young’s journey.
“The evidence that we reviewed for this investigation indicates that Rob Young received unauthorised assistance in his attempt to run across the United States,” it reads.
“We have identified no alternative plausible explanation for the data-of-record other than assistance, most likely in the form of riding in or on a vehicle for large parts of the attempt.”
SKINS act swiftly
As expected, SKINS have cut ties with Young, who, according to chairman Jaimie Fuller, “continues to vigorously defend himself”.
Fuller, on his personal blog, added: “He maintained to Roger and Ross [independent investigators Roger Pielke Jr and Ross Tucker] that he ran every step of the way, but he made mistakes with the collection and handling of data.
“This [outcome] saddens me greatly … obviously, ‘unauthorised assistance’ doesn’t fit with our brand values.
“The conclusion reached by Roger and Ross is one I accept.”
A range of a statements made by Young regarding the run and the money were posted to his Facebook page, but they have since been deleted.
Speaking commitments that Young had for the rest of 2016 (such as the one seen below) are likely to be cancelled.
— Active Cumbria (@ActiveCumbria) May 25, 2016
As expected, criticism of Young has been strident since the report was released.
But Fuller, who acknowledged SKINS should have done more to monitor Young’s run, told The Guardian he was concerned about the abuse the Brit may receive.
“The findings are clear and we absolutely accept them,” he said.
“But we must remember that beyond being a runner he’s a human being.
“In my view his background [and upbringing] means there are special circumstances.”
Investigations into Young’s other running achievements are now likely in what is sure to be a messy fallout.