The Casual Runner

Race Bandits

One of the great things about being members of the Casual Runner Team is that we receive a lot of questions from readers.  In the short time that we have all been writing for Casual Runner, we have gained a shared appreciation for how varied everyone’s knowledge of the running world is.  So what may be common knowledge to an experienced runner, may be a foreign concept to a Casual Runner.  But that is why we are here, to learn from you, to help you learn, and in turn, to better enjoy all of our Casual Running experiences.

Recently, one Casual Runner asked us what is this “race bandit” thing that they have been hearing about, and why is it such a big deal? Well, in short, it is a big deal and it should not happen.

The term “race bandit” has come to mean someone who does not pay for a race entry, yet finds a way to sneak their way either into a starting corral or onto the course at an event.  Let us be clear: bandit’ing is not funny. It is not “cute.” It is not right.  It is just wrong.

Reserve - Mike - 2014 Pitt Half Race Review Pic I

The excitement of the crowded start to a major event cannot be matched. Seen here is the starting line of the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon.

Please do not confuse this with the private transfer of bibs that have been fully and properly paid for by runners.  That is an issue that is subject to ongoing debate and discussion, and we will discuss in a future piece.  What we are talking about here boils down to theft.

Race bandit’ing is often executed by people just jumping onto the course without a bib, running the entire course (or a portion thereof), and then claiming an SMO at the end as though they had registered for the race, when they had not.  We have also heard some people going to such great lengths as duplicating race bibs with high resolution scanners and printers, and then openly bragging about this fact on web forums.  The most appalling part was that these people bragged in such a manner that they did not believe that anything that they were doing was even wrong.

In either case, while these bandits will not receive an official time, they nonetheless add congestion to the courses and further tax the race infrastructure.

Still not convinced that race bandit’ing is wrong? Well, below are our top 5 reasons why it is. So keep this list handy, and the next time you hear or come upon someone who tries to defend their reasons for bandit’ing, you will be an expert on the subject.

5) Bandit’ing creates an enforcement hazard.

As Mike recounted during his review of this year’s Marine Corps Marathon, a woman who was admittedly bandit’ing the race refused to leave the course when a police officer tried to pull her from the course. In doing so she blocked the path of other runners who had to abruptly change their course and running strides in order get around her.  For those who have participated in large races, you know that congestion is a problem, and having to get around such an unforeseen obstacle can lead to collisions and potentially injuries. When a bandit is caught and refuses to leave, it can create a serious hazard to other runners by blocking the course.

Reserve - Mike - 2014 Pitt Half Race Review Pic L

SMO’s not only need to be earned, but they need to be earned the RIGHT way.

4) Bandit’ing is an insult to runners.

Because Casual Running is such an extremely personal endeavor, running is a sport that should be done the right way.  By the time a Casual Runner toes the line at an event, he or she has expended a great amount of time, effort, and money (entry fees, travel costs, etc.) to get there.  When someone cheats their way into an event, they are insulting the Casual Runners who did it the right way.

3) Bandit’ing puts events in jeopardy. 

For the most part, events are not big money makers, but instead many of them they are put together by non-profits who have limited budgets, and commit any surpluses they may earn to charitable endeavors.  Organizers rely on entry fees to make their events financially viable.  When bandits choose to enter courses without paying the entry fees, they put the financial viability of those events in jeopardy.

2) Bandit’ing takes resources from other runners.

When race organizers plan their events, they know how many resources are needed for the number of registered participants. This includes on-course hydration and gel packs, and finishers’ medals and gifts.  When bandits take these things before slower runners (who properly registered for the event) can get them, then the later runners will not have access to these items.  Lest you think we are speaking with hyperbole, we have heard from many Casual Runners who have reported events where water and gel stations ran out of products, and wear slower runners did not receive medals as they were all gone.  Additionally, events are capped based on the number of runners that organizers calculate can be on the course. Any additional runners beyond the cap will only serve to further congest the course and negatively impact everyone’s experience.

1) Bandit’ing is stealing.  

There is no mincing words here: bandit’ing is stealing.  Plain and simple. When you pay a race entry, you are buying access to a tremendous amount of effort and infrastructure that a race organization has put in place for the benefit of the runners.  When someone bandits a course, they are stealing these benefits.

What can be done about race bandit’ing? We are by no means suggesting that folks go out and start a witch hunt. We are merely trying to help educate the Casual Running community so that we can dispel any myth that such practices are ok, because they are not. And the next time any Casual Runner witnesses someone bandit’ing a race or hear someone bragging about it, then we will all know its ok to speak up and say something, because the other person is in the wrong. After all, that is why they are called bandits.

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!



6 thoughts on “Race Bandits

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    That is so interesting!! I’m sttniarg to realize my body needs more cross training then I have been doing as much as I would love to run 4-5 days a week, I think 3 is more reasonable for me. At least for now. Even though I’m not running currently, trying to heal my piriformiscorrina recently posted..

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