- Banditing Races Is for Cowards
- Is it actually legal to bandit a marathon? (run w/o registering)
- Never bandit a race under any circumstances
- Is it cool to run bandit (without paying) in a race?
- NO: Bandit No More
- or if you want to race legally without paying, enter our Race Ahead Giveaway to win free entry to your favorite races in the Blue Ridge!
- Big Sur International Marathon
- Entry Fee Includes:
- Bandit On The Run
- The #1 Reason Not to Bandit a Race
- It Is Never, Ever Okay to Run a Race You Didn’t Pay For
Banditing Races Is for Cowards
Earlier this month, Runner’s World published an article about the do’s and don’ts of “banditing”—i.e. participating in a race you haven’t registered for.
The article, which also appeared in a print issue of the magazine under the title “The Bandit’s Manifesto,” began by stating that banditing is wrong and that nobody should ever do it—and then proceeded to offer directives on how to bandit as ethically as possible: e.g. don’t swipe someone else’s bib or collect a medal at the end.
(Also, perhaps unnecessarily: don’t hog the porta-potties.) I haven’t seen the print version, but the GIF-heavy online article was clearly meant as a little harmless fun.
Not everyone took it that way.
“This might be the dumbest, most irresponsible piece of content that Runner’s World has ever published,” Mario Fraioli wrote in this week’s edition of his running-themed newsletter The Morning Shakeout.
Derek Murphy, whose website Marathon Investigation is dedicated to exposing race cheats, published an angry response in which he accused Runner’s World of giving a “green light” to aspiring bandits. Even former Runner’s World staffers came out swinging.
The publication’s former “Chief Running Officer,” Bart Yasso, tweeted that “Banditing is wrong on every level including writing about how to do it.” Meanwhile, former RW columnist Mark Remy published an article on his satirical website Dumbrunner.com, offering advice on how to steal a magazine.
From the intro: “If you’re going to steal—which, guys, you totally should not—here are detailed instructions to make you feel better about doing it. Plus some silly gifs!”
To an outsider, these responses might seem a little excessive. After all, this was a semi-facetious article about an offense, which, let’s face it, will strike most people as pretty benign.
Maybe it’s because I’ve produced my own fair share of dumb and potentially irresponsible content that I felt a certain degree of solidarity with any editors at Runner’s World who might have taken heat for this.
Also, it doesn’t seem so crazy to imagine that some of the people who bandit by using someone else’s bib are oblivious that it’s a major no-no. Runner’s World might have shown such people the error of their ways.
Then again, I’m not a race director, for whom the scourge of banditry can be a serious liability (see Murphy’s article) and, more generally, just a huge pain in the ass.
many big-name races, the New York City Marathon has spotters, whose sole purpose is to catch unofficial runners and banish them from the course, lest they should cross the finish line and make an already daunting race scoring process even more tedious.
If I’ve learned anything in the few years I’ve spent covering the sport, it’s that runners really can’t stand cheaters. And banditing is a form of cheating, in the sense that it’s a blatant violation of the rules, often at the expense of those who chose to abide by them.
Personally, I’m just surprised that banditing has such widespread appeal.
For obvious reasons, there isn’t much official data on this, but the Runner’s World article claims that thousands of miscreants bandit every year—which I find totally bizarre.
As with reported incidents of adult men and women who knowingly cut courses, I’m always left wondering: Why would anyone actually want to do this?
There’s arguably some financial incentive. Many races are expensive and difficult to get into. In a sense, anyone who successfully bandits the New York City Marathon is saving $295.
But what are these people getting for their trouble? Nobody who pays for a marathon is paying for the privilege of running 26.2 miles—you can do that for free. Don’t tell me people bandit to get their hands on race-day goodies.
The aid station bagels really aren’t that tasty and finisher’s medals won’t go for much on eBay.
I suppose I see the appeal of doing something illegal just to see if you can get away with it. But if that’s the case wouldn’t you want to do something a little more interesting, and fun, than going for an illicit jog?
Maybe it’s because I’m just a repressed bureaucrat at heart, but I always thought the appeal of races was having official documentation of your effort on the day.
I get a little thrill when I see my name in the results, can check out my splits, and can compare my performance to races past. It provides an illusion of permanence.
I imagine a future scenario in which my grandchildren are mocking my accelerating decrepitude, but I hit back by producing some ancient race results.
Of course, being an official participant means that your bad races are immortalized, too. That’s just part of the deal. On top of everything else, I think the running community’s contempt for bandits might be tied to the fact that banditing is a form of cowardice. To race is to put yourself on the line and risk failure. Bandits, meanwhile, aren’t risking anything.
Lead Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP Images
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Is it actually legal to bandit a marathon? (run w/o registering)
There are tons of bandits at marathons, although post-Boston there are a lot less. Here's the thing. Marathon courses are closed.
They are private roads that the public is not allowed to be on if they aren't registered as a runner or a volunteer. IANAL, but I'm pretty sure bandit catchers are catching people who are trespassing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:09 PM on February 26, 2014
I think the thing they usually get race bandits on is “theft of services” when they take water, food, aid, etc.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:12 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]
Let's assume the bandit takes no water, Gatorade, or aid etc.
posted by crawltopslow at 12:14 PM on February 26, 2014
I am guessing that the “bandit catchers” take advantage of most people's respect for authority / dis of conflict. They can tell you to get off the course and most people will comply but if you refused they wouldn't have a lot of legal recourse.
posted by ghharr at 12:29 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]
Oh yeah, the other issue is permits. Most events get a permit from the city (or county or whatever) for a certain number of riders, and if they get caught exceeding that, they can get fined or even not invited back next year.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:31 PM on February 26, 2014 [3 favorites]
In terms of “is it legal?” it wouldn't matter why the group got a permit to use public streets for a period of time: a race, a neighborhood party, or a public demonstration.
The organizing group probably can't do anything to stop other members of the public from just showing up, other than exerting pressure, saying “hey, you're not one of us, we're using this space right now.
” Or they can wait for the bandit to do something actually illegal, public drunkenness, property damage, etc. and then complain to the cops.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:35 PM on February 26, 2014
a lot of people run marathons to be able to see their time in the paper the next day. It just seems there wouldn't be much incentive… You can run 26.2 miles wherever you want any time. “the marathon” is more abficially doing it.
posted by mdn at 12:44 PM on February 26, 2014
I'm mainly talking about large city 42km marathons that cost $150 and sell out.
posted by crawltopslow at 1:37 PM on February 26, 2014
lonefrontranger, I think you and I agree. The cop didn't issue the guy a citation, or arrest him, because the guy was not doing anything legally wrong by being there.
It sounds there was a safety issue, and the cop was doing the race equivalent of directing traffic around a wreck (the normal traffic is allowed to be there but needs to go where directed for safety reasons).
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:42 PM on February 26, 2014
oh and to be completely honest from my perspective, any promoter of an event who refuses to offer a refund or entry transfer upon legitimate proof of inability to compete for injury/medical reasons are a species of event promoters I frankly do not comprehend and never wish to emulate.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:28 PM on February 26, 2014
[Just stick to answering the question please?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:34 PM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]
The one near to me goes through part of the Whidbey Naval Air Station. I bet there is no way those folks will let you pass without a number, legal or not.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:59 PM on February 26, 2014
To answer your question, no it's not illegal, Boston withstanding perhaps because of last year.
posted by smoke at 1:06 AM on February 27, 2014
And as far as I know there are often friends of people who are “pacers” who don't register, but hop in to run part of the race with their friend, to offer support, and maybe offer food/water.
This seems more common in ultra-marathons, but seems to also happen in marathons. I wonder where they fall in the spectrum of bandits in the eyes of the race directors and bandit catchers.
posted by crawltopslow at 7:09 AM on February 27, 2014
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Never bandit a race under any circumstances
I do not hold with banditing races and I never have. A bandit in a race is any person that runs the course and makes use of the race support but has not paid for the right to be there. Jon over at the complete running network wrote about how he no longer holds with banditing a race:
When they were these mysterious, unseen runners, it never made a difference. But now, seeing their faces, and them running between the real racers, it made me mad. […] They didn’t pay their money I did, and now they are spoiling my race. […] It’s theft, plain and simple.
Actually, to my mind, banditing a race is not plain and simple.
Not only is it theft, but it is not safe, either. Races have entrance caps because that is the most number of people that a race can support. Volunteers and race directors only scrape together enough supplies for the number of people that they expect to have to support.
Non-profits often sponsor races in an effort to raise capital for their charitable work, which is not helped by people who skip paying the fee.
Bandits have not signed any sort of liability waiver, and as ridiculous as it sounds the race directors would probably be found liable if the bandit did something stupid run into a car or trip over a curb.
When I was in college, one of my professors insisted that we all get a subscription to the Christian Science Monitor.
After the Boston marathon, they had a huge spread in the paper about the race (it is published in Boston) which consisted of a few sentences mentioning the winners and the rest of the entire page glorifying bandits in the race.
I immediately canceled my subscription and sent the editors a nasty letter, which I assume that they didn’t print. I’ve never once looked in that newspaper again, so I’m not sure.
This past weekend was the Maine Marathon. I had a friend that was hoping that I would come down and help pace him through his half marathon, and while cooling down after my 5k from the day before another friend had suggested that I kill two birds with one stone by getting my long run in during the marathon.
I would not be near the start or finish, so chances are pretty good that I would not actually bother anybody while I was running. I could carry my own water, so I could skip on the water stations and not make use of support that I didn’t pay for. I could not do it though. It was too much banditing the race.
Instead, I just ran around my house.
If somebody is out for a run and a race that they were unaware of happens by while they are out, then I am not going to be overly worried. Nor will I worry about deer that try banditing the race other than to make sure that I am not bowled over by it.
I know that some races cost too much money. I know that some people feel that they deserve to run in a race despite not meeting a qualifying standard.
But I also know that if I can not afford or a race then I’ll skip it or find a cheaper one. I know that if I have not qualified for a race then I will just wait until I have.
There are plenty of cheap alternatives to almost any race that you can think of, especially if you are willing to travel a little.
Never bandit a race. It is not fair to the race organizers. It is not fair to the volunteers. It is not fair to the sponsors. It is not fair to the other athletes. It may not be fair to the roads/trails/town infrastructure that the race takes place in. It is just something that you should always avoid, and never feel bad about calling somebody out on it.
Is it cool to run bandit (without paying) in a race?
“Go ahead and do it! They’ll never know,” says the tiny, pitchfork-wielding voice perched upon my left shoulder. Glancing to my right for an opposing point of view, I hear only chirping crickets.
That’s my cue to line up with the other runners and try to hide the fact that my bib is “missing.” This is called being a bandit and I contend that it is not as unethical as many would have you believe.
Am I allowed to run these streets any other time of the year without paying a dime? Absolutely! Why must I now pay $30 – $150 to run in a crowd when my tax dollars pay to maintain this stretch of pavement? If the race is held off-road, there is no excuse for paying money to the ever-growing list of trail runs so that I may enjoy Mother Nature’s gifts.
“But wait! You’re depriving charities of money.” No, no I’m not. I would not have paid for the race either way. Furthermore, some of the charities that your entry fee funds are simply preposterous.
If the blue-footed, wingless owl can’t survive without my $3, then Charles Darwin would be pleased with my decision to “liberate” a spot in the race.
If your inner Robin Hood will not allow you to participate for this reason, bandit the race and give a couple bucks to whatever charity is the sponsor.
Anyone who wants to condemn me for this point of view needs to take a look in the mirror before pointing the accusatory finger.
Ever taken extra condiment packets from a restaurant? A towel from a hotel? Or download music without paying? The people lifting office supplies from work are usually the same people who sit atop their high horses and criticize me for race jumping.
So I say, the next time you want to participate in a race that is over capacity or just too expensive, grab your significant other, jump the barricade and Bonnie & Clyde your way to the finish.
Dave Schlagman blogs at Adventures in Running and races across the U.S.
NO: Bandit No More
The bib-less run among us. They gum up aid stations, photobomb our race pics, and steal our bananas at the finish line. I know this because I was once among their number, led down the primrose path to banditry. Let me tell you why it’s not such a hot idea. (In fact, I felt so dirty after the last one, I suffered through an ice bath for thirty minutes.)
If you wouldn’t run a red light, steal cookies from the Girl Scouts, or sneak into a concert, you shouldn’t be running a race you haven’t paid for. You can avoid the water stations or not cross the finish line, but look around you.
Not only did the other racers pay for the privilege, you’re throwing off the place they finish in, overtaxing the volunteers, ignoring any charities involved, and you’ll wind up making the next race more expensive for everyone else.
I can hear the bandits, and my old self, now: “If jumping a race is wrong, so is going 28 in a 25. Or using a sick day to go shopping.
Or checking on the clock!” Yes, many have committed these seemingly victimless crimes at least once. But imagine if everyone did, or if everyone applied the same logic to worse misdemeanors.
Now, imagine if we all showed up for the same race, sans payment. Picture the hysteria of this mass stealing!
Yes, as a bandit you are stealing: a paying racers’ finish time, the ‘crete of the streets, even the aid in the PowerAde.
And let’s say you stumble upon the Race to End Explosive Diarrhea 5K on a cool Sunday morning and join the masses, only to end up in the fetal position yourself at the finish line? Not so victimless anymore! Don’t even think about suing those poor race directors when they leave you high and not so dry. Without a bib, you should automatically be considered a DNR, even if you don’t claim that free-to-you 1:39 half marathon as your PR.
So get your ass off the course unless you’ve worked your ass off to pay the entry fee.
Jinger Moore is a blogger with SaltyRunning.com, a collaborative blog for women runners who love running (ethically) fast.
or if you want to race legally without paying, enter our Race Ahead Giveaway to win free entry to your favorite races in the Blue Ridge!
Big Sur International Marathon
The Big Sur Marathon will officially end at 1 PM when the course will reopen to regular two-way vehicular traffic. There will be NO support of any kind on the course (aid stations, medical, communications, etc.
) for anyone not maintaining a 6-hour pace. Those who do not reach marathon mile 21.2 by 11:50 AM will not be allowed to proceed past that point and will be provided transportation to the finish.
No finish medallions or official times will be provided for anyone finishing after 1 PM.
Limited to 4,500 total qualified entrants (must be 16 years or older, in good health and well trained. BSIM is a challenging course with 6-hour cut-off time (13:45 per-mile pace).
ONLY THOSE PARTICIPANTS WHO ARE ABLE TO COMPLETE THE RACE IN 6 HOURS (chip time) WILL RECEIVE A BIG SUR INTERNATIONAL MARATHON FINISHERS’ MEDALLION, AN ONLINE FINISHERS’ CERTIFICATE AND BE LISTED IN THE VIRTUAL OFFICIAL RESULTS BOOK. No exceptions!
Click HERE for 2020 entry fees and age limits.
Both first-come, first-served entry options (Big Sur VIP and JUST RUN Donation entry) are now SOLD-OUT.
Registration for all drawings (Groups & Couples, Loyalty, Locals, First Timers and Last Chance has now ended. Results can be viewed HERE.
Event entries are non-refundable and non-transferable. Once we accept your entry, you will not receive a refund if you cannot participate. You may not give or sell your number to anyone else.
No eBay or Craig’s List sale of bibs. No bandits.To read our cancellation policy, see below. You have the option to purchase Booking Protect from Active.
com during the registration process on the payment page.
- Your ENTRY FEE IS NON-REFUNDABLE AND NON-TRANSFERABLE (no refunds, transfers, exchanges). You may not sell or give your bib number to another person. It’s for charity, remember?
To learn more, click HERE.
Entry Fee Includes:
- Long sleeve technical fabric participant shirt in gender specific sizing, featuring an original design.
- Unique ceramic medallion created by Kathleen Kelly Designs for participants finishing within the official time limit of six hours
- Food and drink at the start and finish
- Souvenir Race Program & Weekend Guide
- Free Expo and informational race clinics
- Bus transportation to the start in Big Sur and from the finish to your morning departure location (both on the Monterey Peninsula or Big Sur)
- Results online and in Monday’s Monterey County Herald (a free copy will be sent to U.S. participants in the Marathon living outside of the Monterey Peninsula)
If you plan to purchase merchandise when registering for an event or at My Events at Active.com. A sizing chart for 2020 merchandise will be available soon.
Per the marathon running industry policy, all entry fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. This policy applies to all entrants and is in effect whether you are injured, have an unexpected family/business emergency, have a medical emergency, etc.
If the course has to be changed or the race cancelled due to an act of nature, or the event time changed due to circumstances beyond our control, there are no refunds or rollovers. You may not sell, transfer or give your bib to another person.
There are NO exceptions.
You do have the option to purchase the optional “Booking Protect” through Active.com at the time of registration. See below for more information.
Your 2020 entry fee IS NOT TRANSFERABLE to 2021. You do not need to inform us of your cancellation. If you do cancel, you may take the amount of your entry fee as a charitable donation on your income tax return. The Big Sur Marathon Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit.
Booking Protect is a registration protection program available through Active. Com.
It is an opt-in offer that enables registrants to purchase coverage for the total cost of their registration and processing fees.
If a registrant is unable to attend our event for a reason covered by the Registration Protection offer, they may contact Booking Protect to file a refund application and receive compensation.
Registration protection can only be purchased during the event registration process. The offer will appear on the payment page (immediately following the Order Details summary).
If an entrant decides later that they don’t want this protection, they can cancel up to 14 days after the start of the booked event for any reason – no questions asked.
If you wish to cancel your purchase visit https://bookingprotect.com/contact-us/.
If you have purchased Booking Protect, you can submit a refund request via Booking Protect’s easy-to-use online portal at https://bookingprotect.com/refund/.
While it may seem no big deal to give or sell your race bib to another person, it does present serious consequences to both the race organizers and the participant field a.
Race results and finisher’s awards can be impacted and medical staff might not be able to identify a participant in need of treatment on the course.
It is imperative that the person wearing the bib and taking part in the race is the same person that is in our registrant database.
If a person is caught wearing a bib that is registered to someone else, both parties will be banned from participating in all Big Sur events for a period of one year. The person wearing the bib will also be disqualified from any officialresults.
|If you wish to downgrade to a shorter distance event in 2020 due to injury, limited training, or other reason, we now have a downgrade request window. Downgrades are limited (all race distances sell-out) and available first-come, first-served between February 25 and March 18, 2020 only. There is a $30 downgrade administrative fee and original entry fees are non-refundable. To request a downgrade, email the Registrar between February 25 and March 25, 2020. Please provide your original event and your requested event distance. We’ll also need the 3-digit security code (located on the back of your card) for your credit or debit card on file at Active.com to process the downgrade fee.Please note that the downgrade period could end earlier than March 25 if there is unprecedented demand for certain distances.There will be no further downgrades available after March 18 or during race weekend. No exceptions.|
You must be present to pick up your bib, participant shirt and race packet at the Health & Fitness Expo; you cannot delegate another person to pick-up in your place unless you have completed an official Packet Pick-Up Authorization Form. Please be sure to make your travel plans accordingly.
Bib numbers are assigned the second week in April. Each participant will be emailed their bib number and QR check-in code on the Monday and Thursday prior to race weekend. Bibs numbers will also be emailed by SVE Timing. You can also look up bibs on the mobile app (found for iOS and Android as “Big Sur Marathon”) or at My Events at Active.com once bibs are assigned.
Prior to race weekend you will receive a series of communications containing important information. If you have a Gmail account, be sure to check your All Mail folder as our eBlast or eNewsletter may not land in your inbox. Communications are sent via Constant Contact or through Active.com. If you have opted either platform in the past, you will not receive them.
Online entries will be confirmed by e-mail from Active.com. If you have spam filters and/or firewalls in place, we cannot guarantee you will receive this email. In the near future you will be able to confirm your entry at My Events at Active.com. You may also email the registrar to confirm your entry.
The Big Sur Marathon has teamed with RunCoach to provide personalized training with expert coaching and proven results!
Options include a FREE RunCoach program or the RunCoach GOLD program for $20. Coaching can be purchased during registration or at My Events at Active.
Let RunCoach help you unleash your potential!
Download our Mobile App from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for athlete lookup and tracking (when available), a schedule of race weekend events, course maps, a FAQ, visitor info and more. Search for Big Sur Marathon.
The marathon begins at 6:45 AM at the Big Sur Station in Big Sur. To view a map of the start area, click HERE (Please note that the map is subject to change).
|The course is from Big Sur to Carmel on scenic Highway 1, the nation’s first nationally-designated Scenic Highway. The course is USATF certified and is an official Boston qualifier. The course reopens to traffic at 1:00 PM, an approximate 6-hour course limit, just over a 13:45 pace per mile.Due to the nature of the course, no animals, pacers, skates, skateboards, bikes, wheelchairs, hand cranks, baby joggers or children/infants in backpacks are allowed on the course. No bandits. No exceptions. If you need special accommodations, call 831.625.6226.To view the marathon course map and elevation chart, click HERE.Start elevation: 356′Finish elevation: 10′Total elevation gain: +2,182′Total elevation loss: -2,528′|
Bandit On The Run
The original race bandit? Image via blogs.citypages.com.
The bib-less bandits run among us. They gum up aid stations, photobomb our race photos and steal our bananas at the finish line. But they also make history.
Today I’m writing about bandits: people who run races without paying to enter them. While researching the net for this post, I’ve become more apprehensive to reveal that I’ve…*ahem*… “jumped into” a few races without paying the often overpriced entry fee.
But does it help to say that I would never bandit my “A” race of the season? If I also thought I might be in for a big PR mid-way through training, I will gladly pay the fee to compete, too.
Other than these two scenarios, is there really any harm in heading out for a run that just so happens to be with 5,000 or so other people on a perfectly marked course, fit with timers and water stops?
Is it wrong to bandit?
It depends who you ask.
On one end of the spectrum, there are runners who believe that banditing a race is wrong, unethical and considered stealing.
Smack dab in the middle of the debate are those who believe that as long as you use the race as a training run, do not take any fluids, and do not take any of the food at the end of the race, than you are ok to freely join the entrants.
Kudos if you don’t cross the finish line, too! At the opposite side of the spectrum, there are the true Bandits at heart: jump in, take the water, eat all the food you can eat, and grab that hard-earned medal because you earned it!
Where do you stand on the issue?
Am I paying for the race or the shirt?
But will you run (and pay) for a shirt? Image via funnyrunningshirts.com.
When you bandit, you will ly not receive a t-shirt. But the t-shirt debate is one reason runners will bandit a race. As entry fees have risen, the quality of our shirts have gotten better, too. For some smaller races, there are options to pay a discounted race fee if you don’t care about a shirt.
In fact, open track meets at colleges are usually pretty cheap ($5-$10) and there’s no shirt involved. The bandit argument is that if more races had the option to run shirt-less, so to speak, you’d have a little less bandits and possibly more competition showing up to race.
But then more competition equals more staff and more police and well, more money!
It’s not against the law.
There is no law being broken by a middle-spectrum bandit. A police officer cannot issue a warrant for your arrest if you happen to go for your jog on the day of the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon. In fact, some would even argue that it’s ok to take a Gatorade as the reason for the drink on the course is to advertise.
So, the more, the merrier. I’ve never jumped into a race over 13 miles so taking fluids has not been an issue for me. However, after the race is over, I’ve seen plenty of bib-less people grab some post-race goodies. I’ve also seen volunteers throwing away boxes of food after the awards ceremony.
Does it make it right? Let me go ask my superego.
I wonder if Freud’s theory accounted for banditing? Image via gerardkeegan.co.uk.
Just don’t cross the finish line.
Along with not taking any fluids or food, many runners insist that if you are going to jump into a race, just be sure to not cross the finish line as it can mess up the results. I’ve got another confession to make. I’ve only bandited two or three races but I haven’t been able to escape the finish line (sorry race directors!).
Maybe this is a sign that I should stop with the banditing altogether. If you accidentally receive a medal at the finish, turn it down. Or better yet, give it away.
When I jumped into a half marathon last year and was too disoriented to notice a volunteer draping my neck with a medal, I walked away and gave it to a two year-old girl whose face lit up as bright as the medal itself.
I know, still doesn’t make it right.
Don’t be that guy. Or girl.
Does it just need to stop?
There a multiple ethical issues involved in this debate. Wherever you stand, it’s probably not a good idea to become a cheapskate weekend warrior. But most runners even frown upon the middle of the road bandits.
A primary issue is that if one person thinks it is ok to bandit a race then what would happen if a hundred other runners thought it was also ok to bandit? The liability is then placed in the hands of the race director.
And this includes those just jumping in to help out other runner friends!
What do you think? Have you run a race without paying? Do you think it’s wrong no matter how it’s done or do you give some leeway for the act?
The #1 Reason Not to Bandit a Race
A few months ago, my wife ran in a trail race where a woman fell and dislocated her finger. She had to be driven to the hospital while the race director filled out an insurance form for the park with the information on her registration.
Thankfully, she was okay in the end, but had she hit her head than there could have been a very real possibility that nobody would have known who she was had she not been a part of the race. Many runners are not in the habit of carrying identification when they run.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about race bandits and offered up a general opinion about why you should never bandit a race. This evening, Tom came by and left a comment, which read as follows:
I am planning on bandit-ing an upcoming marathon. I would certainly pay if I had the money – gladly – but I don’t.
Maybe I’m a thief. But at least I’m an honest, responsible one.
Awhile ago I got arrested for ’stealing rides on trains’ – they called it Theft Of Services. Looked to me that train was going somewhere whether or not I was on it.
On the other hand I recently registered the car I just bought and paid all my taxes on it – I think I was the only person in the title office who hadn’t happened to come by their car as a ‘gift.’
I know bandit-ing is stealing. The same way waiters steal when they take tips under the table. The same way you steal from someone by paying them an unfair wage. The same way, if there’s going to be a middle class, there has to be a lower one.
Evidently some theft is ok in this world, but other theft isn’t.
I’m going to live my life by looking at my actions and asking, honestly, who they hurt, who they help, and, in the end, how the world will be different for my having been here.
To me, that’s being responsible – imagining my actions, multiplied 7-billion-fold. That’s why I paid my taxes. That’s why I would pay for this run if I could.
That’s why I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it was going to hurt anyone.
But to me it looks that course is going to be there whether I run it or not.
Now, Tom recognizes that he is a thief, and probably even does a better job at it than somebody that illegally downloads software or music off of the internet. However, he doesn’t see the harm that he is doing, so he assumes that there is no harm.
Let’s tie Tom’s theory that there’s no harm in banditing a race and let me tell you the rest of the story about the trail race that my wife ran.
In that same race, there was a gentleman up front who bandited the race. He failed to read the trail markings and jumped over a big sign with an arrow pointing left, continuing straight down the wrong trail. The next few runners followed him.
At the end of the race, he apologized for banditing to the race director, and he claimed that he had the same reason as Tom for not registering; he didn’t have the money. (I did notice that he had the money to drive across the state to run, however.)
I know the race director pretty well, and he probably would have let the bandit run the race without paying or could have come to some sort of arrangement had he asked before the race. What would have happened if instead of the woman who dislocated her finger, the bandit had fallen down the mountain?
There would not have been time or resources to revive him and find out who he was before sending him to the hospital. The park would not have been able to fill out their insurance forms, and my friend would have lost his club insurance and would not be able to put on future races.
Had there been more people registered for the race, or a few more bandits, then the race may have been larger than the permit would have allowed and again would have involved no more races at that park or excess damage to the trail.
Banditing a race is theft, and it is dangerous. Banditing a race is unethical. If you can’t afford to run the race, or you don’t happen to the race beneficiary, or for whatever other reason you do not feel paying for the race, then go run on your own. There are ample opportunities as a runner to find great places to go out for a run; there’s no reason that you need to bandit a race.
(Photo Credit: Sean Dreilinger)
It Is Never, Ever Okay to Run a Race You Didn’t Pay For
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Even if I bring my own water and don’t use any of the porta-potties?
Yes. You’re still taking up space on a course that’s full of paying customers. You know how roads usually have cars on them? It costs money to close those roads for runners—the money of all the athletes around you who paid to be there.
Even if I don’t cross the finish line or take a medal?
Yep. If you run any portion of the course, you’re still enjoying something that costs money for free (a.k.a. stealing). If you’d to take in the on-course entertainment and atmosphere without paying, spectate or, better yet, volunteer.
Even if I’m only pacing a friend?
Yes. Has your friend heard of pace groups? They’re one of the many amenities available to people who have paid to run the race.
But I did pay for it—I paid the guy selling the bib on Craigslist!
Race bibs aren’t tickets to concerts or sporting events. They’re boarding passes: The registrant’s personal information is attached to a bib.
So if you need medical attention midrace and are unresponsive, medical personnel will treat you as if you’re Craigslist Guy: They’ll call his emergency contacts (not yours) and treat you as if you had his medical conditions (not yours). Plus, bib-swapping can screw up the awards.
If you place in the wrong age or sex category because you’re not the same age or sex as Craigslist Guy, you’ll end up with a prize you didn’t earn on top of running a race you didn’t properly register for.
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What if I promise to run slowly?
No matter how slowly you’re running, you still take up space you didn’t pay to occupy. (In fact, you take it up for longer!)
But my friend paid for a bib, and now she can’t run. That bib’s just going to waste!
Taking your friend’s bib is no different than taking Craigslist Guy’s—it’s still a bib that’s not yours.
I’d love to pay to legally transfer my friend’s bib to me but the race doesn’t offer it! So it’s the race’s fault.
No, it’s your friend’s fault. She agreed to the race’s terms when she signed up. If the race isn’t prepared to offer a service, that doesn’t give you the right to commit fraud.
Why do races cost so much, anyway? I’m going to stick it to the man and run regardless!
It takes time and manpower to create a closed, properly measured course packed with amenities and entertainment—especially in urban areas, where it’s more expensive to close the streets.
Did you also “stick it to the man” by shoplifting all the swoosh-laden gear you’re sporting in your latest Insta Story? Or the iPhone 7 you used to take said Insta Story? The people who organize the race draw their salaries, in part, from registration fees. They use that money to buy things food and clothing, because not everyone is as comfortable with thievery as you are.
Do you think the people who produce an event you clearly want to take part in deserve to be hungry and naked?
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But what if the race is sold out? No one is losing any money, then. Right?
Races count on a certain number of runners not showing up due to illness, injury, or scheduling conflicts—it keeps costs down and prevents waste.
If races bought enough bagels to feed every runner who registered, they’d be even more expensive and you’d be even more fussy about paying to enter.
Hey, running has a rich history of banditing! Why is it wrong now if it wasn’t wrong in the past?
It was wrong in the past. What was more wrong in the past was that most races wouldn’t allow women to pay to enter. The women who bandited to protest this discrimination are the only permissible bandits in history. Everyone else: Pay up.
But what if the race just gives me a bib, because I’m a celebrity or something?
Okay, fine. You may run a race you didn’t pay for if—and only if—you obtained a complimentary bib, registered under your name, from the race’s organizers.
Above: How race cheaters are caught.