The Casual Runner

Bib Transfers: Right or Wrong?

Last week the Casual Runner Team took a look at the problem of race bandits.  In that piece we hinted that we would be addressing the issue of private bib transfers in a future piece.  Well, we received enough questions about bib transfers that that “future” date became “today.”

To quickly recap, a race bandit is someone who wrongfully – and unlawfully – finds his or her way onto an official race course without paying any entry fee or compensation to the event organizer.  This is theft of services as the event organizers do not receive any compensation for the goods and services that they provide.  This is not to be confused with bib transfers, wherein a person who properly bought and paid for a race entry, for whatever reason, decides he or she will not run the race and decides to transfer for the bib to another person so he or she can run the race.


Buying a bib gets you entry into an event plus cool event-related swag.

We have seen a great deal of – at times overly-passionate – discussion in various running groups about “illegal” transfers of bibs. We should be clear that this is not correct terminology, as there in not necessarily anything “illegal” about transferring a race bib. Just because something may be against an event’s rules, does not necessarily make it “illegal.” The legality of a bib transfer is determined by the applicable ticketing and licensing laws of the place where the event is to take place. So, for everyone’s sake, let’s calm down in being armchair attorneys and discussing “illegal” transfers.

That being said, some events do allow for “legal” transfers (See what we did there? Sorry, we couldn’t resist).  In these situations, the event organizer charges a nominal fee to allow someone to change the name associated with the bib. However, this requires a certain level of organization and infrastructure that not all organizers have.

Given this, we decided that it was time that we looked at the pros and cons of private bib transfers.

Pro. Bib transfers allow runners to run a race when they otherwise could not have run it because their plans changed, the event was sold out, or they missed a registration deadline.  As more and more events are selling out earlier and earlier, bib transfers provide runners with an opportunity to run a race that they may not have otherwise, without an entry going to waste when a runner cannot run his or her bib.

Steve Pic B

Who knew that these things could spark such controversy?

Con. Bibs are attached to a specific runner as is that runner’s emergency contact information. In the event of an on-course emergency, confusion can result.

Pro. Bib transfers allow runners who cannot run a race (due to injury, sickness, or really, whatever) to recoup some of their race costs that otherwise would be lost by selling the bib to a friend who wants to run the race.

Con. Event organizers do not want to contend with a “secondary market” of bib sales that could result in scalping such as exists with sporting events where brokers, who have no intention to run the race, buy blocks of bib solely for the purpose of reselling them at a large markup.

Pro. Bib transfers allow runners to find replacement running buddies. We have all been there: you register to run an event with a friend, and that friend cannot run it for whatever reason. If that friend can transfer their bib to another runner, you do not have to run the race alone.

Con. Bib transfers can create problems with prizes when transfer bibs are run by runners in different gender or age groups than that which is registered on the bib.  The timing mats only recognize the chip attached to the bib, not the person to whom the bib is attached.

Pro. Bib transfers do not affect any other runners. They do not put any additional strain on the on-course resources (water, SMOs, gels, port-a-potties, etc.).  Thus they are net positive runners without hurting anyone.

Con. If the event is not sold out, bib transfers can cut into sales, depriving event organizers of much-needed revenues vital to sustaining the future of the event.

The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. Should bib transfer be permitted? Should they be prohibited? What did we miss on our list of pros and cons?   Please leave a comment or email us using the links below.  To ensure that you do not miss this and other great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.  See you out on the running trails!



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