Have you heard of banditing a race? Race bandits run races but do not pay the registration fee. It’s possible they may use race support (water, etc.), but some don’t since they didn’t “pay for it.”
There are lots of reasons someone may “bandit” a race.
- Helping to pace a friend.
- Using the race as a training run.
- Perhaps the race is out of their budget.
- Race is sold out, but they want to use it as a training run or run with a friend, etc.etc.
So What’s The Big Deal?
I honestly didn’t think much about race bandits until I started reading the controversial view points. It seems it’s like politics: everyone has an opinion, and you probably won’t change anyone’s mind about how they feel. Is it ethical? Unethical?
Below I will discuss the viewpoints I have found, and which one I tend to agree with.
It’s Bad-Never Do It
Plenty of runners are against race bandits, and believe you should never do this, no matter the circumstances. The point of a race may be to raise funds for a charity or organization, and you’re just deciding not to pay. I posted on a Facebook group and here’s what one runner had to say:
I’m opposed to Race bandits. With all the planning and costs that go into planning and executing a race and many of the race proceeds goes to a charity, I think its disrespectful to bandit a race.
Basically, if you plan on running it, you should pay for it. Or how about the fact that unknown runners on the course could be dangerous? Carey Pinkowski, the Chicago Marathon race director, pointed this out in a Runner’s World article.
He stressed that the risk to the race organizers was not one person drinking sugar water he didn’t pay for, but an unknown number of people on the course, cumulatively taking up space and resources, with no ID, no way to know their medical history, and no way to track them.
Each unregistered runner, Carey said, is an additional strain on resources, and each one on the course puts them closer to not being able to manage the event. “We forecast all our allotted resources, fluids, security, medical personnel, against a certain number of participants.”
Here’s a very sarcastic (and kinda funny) letter to bandits from Competitor. Last point that I’ve read a lot is, if one person does it, then nothing is stopping multiple people from doing it, and when does it stop?
It’s Fine-Who Cares
This is probably the least common opinion, but these people are okay with bandits. One may think, why do I need to pay 30-40 bucks for a 5K? Just for the t-shirt? I can make a donation of my choice to the organization, and run 3.1 miles if I want to! It’s not illegal to do so. If you don’t care what people think, then who cares? Plus, how much of the water or bananas and bagels get thrown out at the end anyway? Is it really a big deal if one person takes a cup of water?
I actually tried doing a Google search for “race bandit ok” and variations but couldn’t find much. If you feel this way, please leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
It Depends On The Situation
I would say I fall in this camp. It really depends. If I need to do a long run this Sunday, and there happens to be a half-marathon in my town, I don’t see anything wrong with jumping in for a few miles BUT not taking any support (gels, water, etc.). I’m only going to be on the course for a few miles, and certainly don’t plan on crossing the finish. I’d never jump in a race and take a medal I did not deserve.
I’m also okay with people jumping into pace their friends. Dan jumped in for the last 3 miles of the NYC Marathon in 2011 and I really needed that. My mom and I ran 1 mile of a local 4 mile race because we were out on a run, and I wanted to run for a bit with a friend. Though we did make sure to stay on the sidewalk while they were on the roads.
Here’s an opinion posted on Google+:
I think it depends. If the organizer is raising money for, let’s say, the Make-a-Wish foundation, it’s wack to jump in for free. If it’s a race sponsored by a bank, insurance company, or for any personal financial gain, you can bandit it all day long.
I don’t foresee myself ever starting and finishing an entire race without paying, but I do think there are situations where it’s not as big of a deal…but that’s just me!
Also, did you know that the Boston Marathon (begrudgingly) lets race bandits start the race in dead last and run the course? Although this year they are really discouraging it, according to this article in Runner’s World:
Do you anticipate a greater than usual number of bandits for 2014?
D.M.: We truly hope not. We really want to discourage unregistered participants this year more than ever given lack of space and the level of security that most likely will be present. This is the year to cheer on those who have earned the right to be here. Soon we will be announcing our plans for other race weekend events, which will give others an opportunity to participate.
T.G.: We will ask for everyone’s cooperation in not diminishing the experience for those who have properly entered–as well as not overburdening our support systems–by running unofficially. We anticipate a high degree of cooperation, just as we have received an immense degree of support from everyone in so many other areas in recent months.
What do you think about race bandits?
Which viewpoint do you agree with the most and why?
Follow Reach Your Peak: