Dentist Kip Litton is from Davison, Michigan, and his original claim to fame came from his efforts to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis by trying to run a marathon in every state of the U.S.
The mystery surrounding the running dentist began with runner Kyle Strode, a 46-year-old from Helena, Montana, who in July of 2010 ran the Missoula, Montana marathon with Litton, or so he thought. As The New Yorker reports, Strode placed 4th out of 1,322 finishers, and won the masters division, for entrants 40 and older.
At the awards ceremony, Strode discovered Dr. Kip Litton had finished second. The story might have died here except that Strode decided to go back and review how the Missoula race had developed behind him. It was simply natural curiosity that drove Kyle Strode online to review all the race photographs.
As he clicked through the different photographs and recognized the runners he had passed during the race, he realized there were no pictures of dentist Litton. He only seemed to appear at the very end of the finish line.
Strode began to wonder if the good doctor was faking his marathon races, so he decided to look up photographs from other races where Dr. Litton claimed to have raced. A disturbing pattern seemed to appear in which there were no images of Litton throughout the races. He only came into view at the end of the races.
Later that July Strode received an unexpected inquiry from Jennifer Straughan, the Missoula race director, who asked him to look at a photograph from the race stating, “There is some question as to whether he (Dr. Litton) was seen along the course. He finished in a time similar to you so theoretically you would have noticed him.” reported the New Yorker.
Strode decided to investigate the dentist further by reviewing the website where Litton listed the marathons he has completed. Strode soon discovers that at least three of the races were fake, meaning that the races never existed. Dr. Litton would later state that he often made-up races just for jokes.
Through online race forums and blogs, other racers and curious spectators began to dissect each of the races the doctor claimed to have participated in and document the ones they felt the doctor had faked. Litton became the subject of a underground online investigation in which officials and runners alike begin to exchange information on the races Litton claimed to have participated.
Hailed as an example of crowd-sourcing detective work, the doctor’s racing story speaks more to the power of collaborative investigative work and the possibility of solving mysteries through social network connections.
Meanwhile, Dr. Litton still contends he has done nothing wrong. It would seem the mystery of Dr. Litton, and his mighty marathon-madness has not yet been solved, but the New Yorker thought it would make a great story to tell anyway.
To read more about this story, see Marathon Man – A Michigan Dentist’s Improbable Transformation.