Coach Jeff

Written by Coach Jeff

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Matt Johnson of RunnerAcademy Stealing and Plagiarizing from RunnersConnect (and why it matters to you)

The RunnersConnect team and I work extremely hard to deliver awesome, free content to you as much as we can. We publish articles on this blog at least three times per week and they’re always free, well-researched and hopefully help you become a better runner.

So, it really ticks me off when someone steals our content, plagiarizes it, and calls it their own.

It’s even more infuriating when someone takes the products and content we’ve spent literally hundreds of hours creating, refining and making actionable for you and then SELLS it on their own site.

But that’s just what Matt Johnson of Runner Academy has done (and it’s not the first time)

Let me show you exactly what Matt stole so you can see it’s not just sour grapes, Matt’s response showing that he thinks it’s ok, and why this hurts you just as much as it does me.

Matt Johnson of RunnerAcademy stealing and plagiarizing our Strength Training for Runners Program

I spent hundreds of hours creating what I believe to be a completely unique product in the running market – a strength training for runners program that wasn’t just about a bunch of routines, but had a specific prescription for how to add strength work to your running schedule every day of the week.

So, it was quite a surprise when a RunnersConnect fan reached out and told me he saw the same exact prescriptions somewhere else – on the Runner Academy site.

I asked him to investigate for me and the screenshots he sent back were astonishing. Matt Johnson had completely stolen our strength training for runners program and was selling it as his unique creation.

Sure, he changed a few words here and there (dropping the Greek names for the routines, which I think is cool) but it’s exactly the same material. Here are a few screenshots:

A comparison of Matt’s routines compared to mine

Prescriptions-comparison

Click for full, clearer image

Wow, remarkably similar wouldn’t you say?

But, I can even understand this. If you were going to create a strength training for runners program, you’d probably include the same race distances. Odd that he also thought of general fitness and weight loss too, but let’s keep digging.

What routines does Matt have in his strength training program? Let’s compare them to my program?

routines-comparison

Click for full, clearer image

Wow, that’s a lot of cross over. Besides dropping the Greek names, it looks like it’s an exact replica of my routines. I guess maybe there are only so many routines you can have, right?

Here’s an example of Matt’s “General Fitness” prescription compared to mine:

Click image to enlargeClick image to enlarge

Now, “general fitness” isn’t a specific race distance, so it’s troubling that the progression of Matt’s routines is exactly the same as mine – Introduction, Endurance, Power, Rest. Moreover, as you can see, it’s basically the same assignment of routines, which only looks different because the long run is on a different day.

Now, let’s look at one of these routines in-depth because here’s where the smoking gun is.

exercise-look-in

Now, most of the routines are simply a copy of my routines with the exercise order slightly adjusted and one or two routines swapped.

But the water pump hop is a dead giveaway. This is an exercise that very few people know about, and especially call it this, because it was developed by Scott Simmons, who I worked for when coaching in college. It’s completely unique to my program and Scott’s coaching.

To continue with one more example, here’s a look at the opening of the 10k prescription.

10k-outline

Hmm, again they look remarkably similar. Weird someone would have the exact same thoughts and express them in almost the exact same way.

What makes this even more comical is that Matt openly discussed how he joins his competitors sites and spies on their content:

Click for larger image. After I called Matt out on this, he quickly decided to change his screen name and the content of the post to try and cover his tracks. Luckily, I like screenshots: http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5922669/Hosted%20images/warrior-forum-2.png

Click for larger image. After I called Matt out on this, he quickly decided to change his screen name and the content of the post to try and cover his tracks. Luckily, I like screenshots: http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5922669/Hosted%20images/warrior-forum-2.png

He even went so far as to discuss his plagiarism strategy in the same forum

http://www.warriorforum.com/main-internet-marketing-discussion-forum/729174-cool-way-use-other-peoples-youtube-videos-create-your-own.html

http://www.warriorforum.com/main-internet-marketing-discussion-forum/729174-cool-way-use-other-peoples-youtube-videos-create-your-own.html

I could go on and on. There are tons of examples within Matt’s membership program (even outside the strength program) where he stole almost word-for-word my ideas, routines, and information. If you want proof, watch this video from Marathon Academy (whom Matt Johnson also stole from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fr1lH9bFiaI *if the video no longer works, post in the comments as I have a backup)

But is this really plagiarism

Plagiarism is the “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work (source).

In some ways, the Internet has really distorted our view of what is and isn’t plagiarism. It’s too easy these days to simply copy/paste someone else’s thoughts and forget to credit them – no professor is going to ask you for sources.

And of course, plagiarism itself is confusing. What constitutes an original idea? When does knowledge move from original work to “universally known”?

But even though plagiarism happens often and can be confusing, it’s still plagiarism when it happens and using the above definition, Matt clearly plagiarized my strength training for runners program.

I’ll come back to this in a bit and maybe this is where you think I’m wrong, but I definitely believe the evidence I’ve provided clearly demonstrates that Matt intended to pass off my work and ideas as his own.

Jeff, why don’t you contact Matt privately

That’s a good question.

First, I plan to do so and I plan to exercise every legal right I have, which includes taking Matt to court. Sure, this is going to cost me a lot of money personally, but I’ll get to why I think it’s so important momentarily.

The reason I am making this public is because this isn’t the first time Matt has stolen my work.

It’s not even the first time he’s stolen someone else’s work.

About a year ago, Jason Fitzgerald from StrengthRunning.com and I noticed that much of the content on Matt’s blog was exactly the same as material we posted.

In fact, we each found 6-7 pieces each that were published almost word-for-word on Matt’s blog.

Unfortunately, Jason and I didn’t take screenshots and we did get Matt to remove the offending content, so I can’t provide all the examples. But, here is a short snippet from one of our emails:

Additionally, the “Runner Grocery Shopping List” that you have is almost exactly the same as the resource that I have for subscribers. Please remove that from the Runner Academy website.

The list of Fruits/Vegetables is nearly exactly the same, which is interesting because it’s ordered in no particular way. Just how I brainstormed them.

Also, the introduction is almost exactly the same.

Your site:
Never worry about eating the same food over and over again. This grocery shopping list for runners has nearly 90 things you can buy on your next trip to the grocery store – from fruit and veggies to seafood and even nut butters. Just about everything here is real food – so stick with these foods to feel great.

Strength Running:
Never worry about eating the same 10 foods over and over again. This list has nearly 90 things you can buy on your next trip to the grocery store – from fruit and veggies to seafood and even nut butters. Everything here (well, almost everything) is what I consider a “real food” – so stick with these foods to feel great

After seeing that, Matt responded:

I appreciate your opinion and respect that, however I will not admit any wrong doing. What I have done is put the articles into draft mode for now so I can review after the weekend as I do not have time to do so today as I am traveling. I will then take the time to make the comparisons and ensure the content is unique before republishing these topics.

Going forward, what I won’t do is avoid any given topics that exist on any other website, performing keyword research for ranking terms (as I am sure you do and title your posts accordingly that is just good SEO). Nothing is directly plagiarized as you have claimed as Google penalizes sites with very similar content that follow any original publishing of it. In this case you would have nothing to worry about as I would be killing my own site if I copied others work and passed it as my own. Google’s algorithm would delist it. Every ‘new and original’ idea comes from that of others before with your own added take and perspective. The very fact we both write about running is copying from what we have learned from those before us with our own take from our own experiences.

To which, Jason and I responded

It’s entirely clear that you simply rewrote my content, following the same train of thought and using the same words. That is the definition of plagiarism. This is not the same as writing about the same topic. The fact that you can’t differentiate the two is very unfortunate.

Honestly, I’m not too worried about SEO. What bothers me is that you’re taking my training ideas, experiences, and philosophies and passing them off as your own, and then selling yourself as an expert in training. You’re selling a training solution to other runners, yet you clearly can’t write a piece about the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training without copying my articles. While that’s your prerogative, I clearly don’t want to be associated with that type of misrepresentation.

That was the end of the conversation between Jason, myself and Matt. Matt removed the offending content and Jason and I dropped it.

From our email exchanges it’s clear Matt doesn’t understand or care that he plagiarizes or copies directly from other experts in the field.

Moreover, even after being caught, he continued to do it again – and even sell the plagiarized material this time.

So, it’s clear that contacting Matt privately and trying to rectify the matter civilly isn’t going to work.

Plus, as I hinted at in my response to Matt, there’s also a bigger issue and it has to do with you, the person reading this.

How this impacts you

You see, it’s hard enough to know who to trust online, especially as it relates to running coaches.

There’s no universal certification program (RRCA and USATF are simple weekend courses and an open book test, which is another rant for another day) so it’s very difficult to find someone who actually knows what they are doing.

When someone like Matt clearly doesn’t know enough about coaching to develop ideas of his own and simply plagiarizes and steals from others, then he’s doing you a disservice.

Let’s take for example the order of exercises within each routine. Matt simply moved them around to make it look like it wasn’t a direct copy and paste.

But, each exercise in my strength training program was in that order for a specific reason. Typically, this is so you target the right muscles at the right time and avoid over-fatiguing one area.

Not understanding how and why this works (because I didn’t explain it assuming people would follow the routines in order) means Matt might be unintentionally setting you up to get hurt.

That’s not fair to you.

Plus, if Matt is so cavalier about stealing directly from Jason, myself and probably others, is he someone we want to trust with our credit card info and online purchases?

Think this is a little harsh and far-fetched? Let’s see what Matt has to say about his favorite month, February:

warrior_forum_3__payment

That’s exactly how your coach should feel about you as a customer, right? Just wow.

That’s why I feel like, in addition to pursuing all my legal options, I need to publicly let you know about this blatant case of plagiarism, theft and fraud.

Obviously, you’re free to have your own opinion about whether this is plagiarism and whether calling Matt out in public is the right thing to do. I do hope you agree with me. If so, here’s what you can do:

  • If you’re a fellow coach, I’d check out Matt’s site to make sure he hasn’t also stolen material, ideas and content from you.
  • If you’re an expert in the field, think twice about appearing on Matt’s podcast and being associated with someone who so blatantly and consciously steals other’s hard work.
  • If you’re a runner, be careful with Matt’s advice. Some of it is in fact coming from true experts in the field, but it might be unintentionally altered without understanding the consequences.

As for me, Matt’s theft of my strength training for runners program has only made me more motivated than ever to make it better so it can continue to stand alone as a unique, amazing program for runners. Expect new routines, better delivery and new research in the middle of this summer!

Thanks for reading!

Update 5.20.14 at 1pm EST

It appears as if Matt has pulled down access to his membership site. It appears the site and material is back up. Looks like this was just a temporarily ploy to get this to blow over and avoid legal ramifications.

While I am happy it appears that the plagiarized content has been taken down, it’s never a goal of mine to “kill my competitors”.

In fact, I am inspired by other coaches and writers in the running community.

I think the more we have, the more and better quality we can deliver. I can’t reach everyone and maybe our tone doesn’t resonate with some runners. That’s ok, I know Jason Fitzgerald, James Dunne, Jay Johnson, Brian Martin, Pete Larson, Matt Frazier, Mark Cucuzella, Camille Herron (and countless others) are putting out amazing content too and maybe they can be the right person to reach you.

Reading their blogs every day gets me fired up to improve our site.

Of course, I don’t trust that this isn’t a ploy to get me to stop pursuing legal action and informing the running community. But, I am glad it has at least put a stop to it for now.

Update 4.10.2015

Matt has also been found to be plagarizing directly from other sites now too. Read this post to see the details.

He has also threatened legal action against me. I will not take this post down as everything I have written is true and have no problems defending my actions.

Thank you to everyone who emailed, facebooked, twitterd (are these even words?) and otherwise sent messages of support. It means the world to me and I really do love the running community. Such an amazing, welcoming and tight-knit community. Let’s continue to share this article so no other runners fall victim to this “expert” in disguise.

Run happy everyone!

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References

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53 Responses on “Matt Johnson of RunnerAcademy Stealing and Plagiarizing from RunnersConnect (and why it matters to you)

  1. Jeff, YOU are a professional and one I’ve admired for years! I’m a competitive masters runner – road and track. I understand what you’re talking about in your post, and you must SUE Matt! There’s no question about it! I have zero-tolerance for his actions. He is despicable.

    Barb

  2. I know you don’t want this fought in the comments section here but I’d like to add my support as it is the least I can do after you and your team has given us so much value. Pity, I actually think Matt Johnston is a great interviewer but can no longer trust his advice. As a University teacher I know the extent of the problem and the damage plagiarism causes. Like it or not, you’ll have to go after him. I wish you the best.

    • Thanks, Scott. Indeed, as a professor I am sure you see this a lot. Like I mentioned, plagiarism is a difficult thing and sometimes it happens accidentally. In those cases, I am very forgiving. But this was obviously not an accidental case. I appreciate the support and awesome to hear we’ve helped so much. Happy running!

  3. I am an avid runner who found Runners Connect looking for a program to use while out on a stress fracture injury. I also am a retired trainer so I understand the severity of this. I completely support Runner’s Connect and think this is ridiculous that you even have to deal with such dishonesty, especially in the running community. Although I have used some of Runner’s Connect water/aqua running workouts, I would never claim them as mine. Good Luck on putting an end to this!

  4. As a fellow coach I’m speechless. Naively, I didn’t think this level of sleazy behavior could occur in the run coaching community. I’m glad you made this public after trying to resolve the issue privately; coaches like this have no place being in business. Good luck, I hope you find a speedy (and hopefully inexpensive) solution.

  5. Bahh. This is outrageous. I have recently noticed more of your own articles getting recognized on various blogs that I dabble in and feel so proud to have worked with you the past 4 years. I am not going to lie, I started listening to Running Academy about 5 months ago and was pretty content with the information on the podcasts. With this said, I have listened to you for about 4 years and any materials that comes close to some of your methods intrigues me. This sheds a whole new light on Matt and is a shame because it reveals his lack of knowledge in the sport and I can no longer trust the information he puts out (or I can, since it is yours). Thanks for your truthful knowledge Jeff.

  6. When this stealing and plagiarizing happens time and time again its time to put it to an end. Your website is outstanding and has helped a number of runners in more ways than one. To know that you have poured countless hours into training programs only to have someone else profit from it is ridiculous. Jeff im sorry you have to deal with a person like Matt when I know you would rather spend that time helping others.I would like to thank you for all you have done for the running community.

  7. Jeff, I have been receiving your articles for quit sometime. You have been such a great inspiration to me that I decided to go back to school to enhance my knowledge in sports medicine as well as studying under Bryan University in the field of Kinesiology so that I could better prepare my club with the knowledge you as well as Bryan university has been given me. To hear such unorthodox is simply degrading to you and to the staff you have. As a owner and father I support you and I truly hope Matt will be brought to justice for his meaningless behavior. May GOD be your protector and strength. I wish you the best. May justice be severed.

  8. Coach Jeff,
    I am sorry to hear about this and I have run into unfortunate unprofessional behavior as well from “peers”.

    I wish you the best outcomes in regards to this situation. Please keep us all updated if you can.

    You have been an upstanding and ethical coach with a genuine love for the sport of running!

    Best,
    Ryan

  9. Coach Jeff, As an avid runner well into my 60’s and a college instructor I know the value of hard work. Both in the classroom and on the track. We should all be appreciated for our original hard work that we are willing to share with others, like you do regularly. I value your knowledge and appreciate what you are doing. Go get this guy, and hopefully clip his wings. I cant believe what he said about February. Wow! What a jerk. Thanks for sharing with us Jeff.

  10. Matt folds up shop! Not something an innocent person would do. Regardless, you should still sue him!

    From his website:

    <<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>

  11. Hi Coach Jeff – I’ve been listening to Matt’s Runner Academy and Everyday Runner podcasts but never bought a membership (thankfully!)! I hadn’t actually found you and your site until Matt posted his response to this – so I’m actually very thankful to have found you in kind of a roundabout way since I’d much rather hear the advice from you and your experts rather than a plagiarizing jerk! I’m excited to read through your content and start listening to your podcasts – consider me a convert!

    • Hi RunnerGirl –
      I listened to both MF’s podcasts too, and always enjoyed them. I never became a member. Where did Matt post his response to this? Can you provide a link ? I’m very surprised and saddened by this. He calls himself a coach – I wonder just how much knowledge he has now. What a shame.

  12. Yikes! That is most definitely plagiarism, plain and simple. I can’t believe that you all asked him nicely and civily to pull the information once before and he brings it back a second time, actually charging people for it. Luckily, I have never come across this guy before. I frequent Runners Connect and Strength Running and I really enjoy the information you guys provide for the running community. I really am sorry that you all have to deal with this and I hope that you are successful with putting this Matt Johnson dude in his place. Thanks again for all that you do. You have my support!

  13. Jeff, I’m an avid runner and scientist and I have ALWAYS appreciated how you cite your sources thoroughly. I use it often myself and refer other runners to your content frequently. Go get this guy, this is clearly wrong!

  14. Jeff- Well done on exposing this and taking action.

    I had someone once take my 150pg thesis I gave away for free on my blog and try and sell it as their own book…So I know how you feel. Exposing people who plagiarize is a good step towards making sure content isn’t stolen..

    Best of luck and keep up the great site.

    • Thanks for the support, Craig. I think a take down notice is harder since the program is behind a Pay Wall. But, rest assured I’ll be pursuing this as best I can. Keep up the great work on your site, love the work you do!

  15. Jeff, I know exactly how you feel. I shared many of my original running technique ideas and treatment format with a well known high profile sports medicine Dr (now ex friend and colleague) whom I recently worked with. Now the pompous ***** is promoting my ideas as his own and using this to build his profile. I’ve learned a valuable lesson about trust and IP. Now currently building a new website with as much protection of IP as possible built in. Its difficult when you want to share but have to contend with losers such as this. Thanks for sharing this piece. John

  16. This is crazy. I had no idea someone would go this far.

    Runner’s World posted the “Myrtl” routine a few weeks ago without any mention of me, but to be honest, it was a bit flattering that they wanted to showcase the routine. What this guy did is completely different. The message board comment about swift boating you is absolutely unbelievable.

    The only thing I can come up with is that RC is such a great platform for online coaching and such a great place for thoughtful information and he looked here first to steal from. That said this is totally unacceptable and I wish you the best in dealing with this thief.

    • Thanks for the support, Jay.

      You bring up an excellent point. There are many times where “accidental” plagiarism happens. You post a YouTube video or list of routines without attribution. That’s not intentionally trying to steal, just a mistake. Like your approach with RW, that type is a bit flattering and a simple, nice email asking for attribution is perfect.

  17. I’ll be honest I’ve been listening to Matt’s pods although I’ve been so happy with the RunnersConnect pods and presentation. Any reader can feel the heart and hard work and sound, professionally presented information in any RunnersConnect communique. Thank you so much, and farewell to RA.

  18. Jeff –
    Good for you for standing up to this type of behavior! Unfortunately, this is an example of the dark side of the Internet.
    On the bright side, I just completed one of your Marathon training plans you offer through Runkeeper.com, and I am very happy to report that I completed the Buffalo Marathon yesterday and I qualified for Boston! I have been running for less than two years and this was my first marathon. I have MCM and the California Invitational planned for later this year and will be joining Runners Connect for this training.
    Thank you and keep up the good work.

  19. Jeff – thanks for making this public. I’m a happy member of your coaching group as I train for my first marathon and have been incredibly impressed with the depth and breadth of solid information on your site. I know I’m in good hands with you and your group of coaches. I had been listening to Matt’s podcast but just deleted his app from my phone. Besides, I had already heard the Matt Fitzgerald interview on your podcast!

  20. Hi Jeff, just came across this today – unbelievable. I would never have thought someone in our community could be so blatantly fraudulent. What is the site Matt was posting his “War Room” crap on? Anyway, I just started a new magazine for triathletes and other endurance athletes (fueltrainingandnutrition.com), I’ll be sending our subscribers over to your site for additional in-depth running advice. Thanks for putting this out.

  21. I appreciate everything you guys do and provide. What he did is theft, plain and simple.

    I will continue to support you guys at RC, and appreciate that you have helped protect us runners looking to learn from a coach (if you can call him that) who cant think for himself.

  22. I just wanted to let you know that another coach is using your plans, profiting from them and passing them off as her own. She personally charged me $90 for the plan and emailed me the PDF. Contact me for the specific information.

  23. I wonder how someone who plots ways to poach competitors’ membership sites, offers advice on plagiarizing videos, and games SERPs is feeling now that the sixth result on his SERP is “Matt Johnson of RunnerAcademy Stealing and Plagiarizing…” is feeling about his strategy? Anyone who follows that link and reads about your experience with him should have second thoughts about giving him a nickle. He has given you more exposure than he could possible have stolen. Hope you nail him good.

  24. Good work Jeff – sometimes you’ve just got to call someone out in public and stand united. Even if he proves elusive on the legal path I would expect that the great comaraderie within the running community will effectively ostracize this guy who appears to quite happily spruik his moral code.

    Only new to your site but a big fan of Jason Fitz (ITB routine – champion!) and use Jay’s plans too. Stick together guys!

  25. Aaaaannd he’s back. That’s crazy. One thing to come of this is now I’m familiar with Runners Connect AND marathon training academy. Both are great so I’ll stick with and ditch the unnamed one.

    • He has done it to many people unfortunately, all we can do is keep reminding people of where his moral compass stands. Keep sharing it with your community! Thank you Larry!

  26. This hits me hard. What a discouraging, demoralizing twist of events. I’ve been enjoying Matt’s podcasts for a few weeks and was considering joining his site. Ironically, when I went to search it, your article about his theft came up. I clicked on that first. I am a busy, working mom of 3 great kids and am constantly juggling my work, family and running plans. Most of my work involves writing, so I’m always dealing with deadlines and the responsibility of turning out ethical, innovative and “clean” material. I’m just sickened by Matt’s actions and more so, by his defensive, “warrior” response to your queries. His business tactics are also off-putting. I can’t in good conscious sign up for that. Fight the good fight, Jeff. Run the “High Road” and your efforts will bear good fruit.

    • Thank you for your support Cathy. Having a moral compass is very important, and we appreciate you taking the time to read this. Jeff (and the other companies) have handled the situation very well, and he is not letting it make him bitter (and is instead spending his time creating better content). You said you were considering joining the site, may I ask what for? We would love to help you out with your training, and by the sounds of it, you would fit in perfectly with our community. Let me know, and we would be happy to help!

  27. Thanks for posting this. I’m new to running and had subscribed to matts website. I’ve unsubscribed now and emailed Matt to let him know I’m not interested in learning from someone who plagiarizes material. Looking forward to reading more of your training tips though 🙂

    • Hi Laura, thanks for reaching out, and for your support. It is good to see that there is another good person in this world, who believes in integrity. Thank you for your support! Can we help you with anything else?

  28. Jeff:
    I wish I would have found your site earlier…I paid $$ for Matt’s “Crush My PR” membership in February and within a month or 2, he completely disappeared. He does not do his podcasts, he is not on FB or twitter…”POOF”. I’m pretty pissed, good money out the window. I always believe in seeking out coaching, “a coached runner is always coached by an idiot.” I like the science behind the training. In pursuing my running goals as well as my coaching certifications, it is important to me to have mentors with integrity.

    I am in the last 4 weeks of a marathon plan for NY, so I am not inclined to change much, although I have combed through your information on tapering as the Hanson’s Method does not really have a taper period. I will be hooking up with you and your team for my next race. Thanks for being “real”!

    Keep up the great work!

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