Smokey and the BANDIT

“I’m not going to run as many races this fall” he said.  “I’m only going to do two marathons or ultras this fall” he said.  Well it turns out I’m a liar.  I’ve had the plan of running Richmond (Nov. 12th) with my family and racing Kiawah (Dec 10th) for some time now and that was all I was going to do this fall.  Until a friend made a Facebook post about a bib for Marine Corps Marathon that was up for transfer.  And that’s how I got in to the 41st MCM on Oct. 30th.

It was a complete surprise and knee-jerk reaction on my part but I figured opportunities like this don’t come along everyday so I jumped on it.  Anyways getting into MCM this way got me thinking about bib transfers, banditing races, running races for other people, running with someone else’s bib, and all that type of stuff.  I know its common practice for some people to bandit races or ran with someone else’s bib but this has never been something that sat well with me.  It’s just always been one of those things that seems dishonest and to be cheating the sport.  In a sport/hobby/activity that is relatively inexpensive race entry fees (for me at least) are the only major expense.  Well entry fees and accompanying travel expenses if you are running far from home; which is one reason I run locally, sleep in my truck if I drive to a race, or race in cities where I can couch surf.
Anyway here are the major reasons I think you should only run races you have registered for and with a bib that is in your name…

  • Supporting the Local Community
    This is definitely more applicable to the smaller town, local race scenes where a large part of the profit goes to charities and other various community outreach programs. With the growth in running popularity over the past several years races have become one of the go too fundraisers for all sorts of organizations.  In my opinion the $25-$40 you’re going to spend on your local 5k or 10k is well worth it.  In the relatively selfish sport of running being able to give back to the local community is one of the major reasons I run as many local races as I can.
  • Support Local Running Store
    Many community races are also directed and/or timed by local running retails stores. So by paying an entry fee you are also helping to support a local business.
  • Offset Cost of On-course and After Party Amenities
    When someone bandits a race and takes water, Gatorade or gels that are provided on the course they are in effect stealing from whoever is putting on the race, as well as any benefiting charities. The on-course amenities are usually paid for by the organization putting on the race (unless of course you are talking about a big time race that attracts sponsor attention) and when races are bandited these directing organizations are being taken advantage of.  This goes the same for the after race amenities such as water, Gatorade, beer, food, etc.
  • Adequate On-course and After Party Supplies
    Not only are bandits in essence stealing from the race but they also can cause supply issues. When people jump into a race without officially registering the race directors may not have adequately stocked aid stations to accommodate the extra people.  This could result in people towards the end of the pack encountering empty aide stations when they paid for the resources that were taken by people who did not pay.
  • Skewing Results
    When a runner takes a bib from someone they are faster than the race results can get screwed up. Say this faster runner ends up placing in an age group that they are not in (say a 25 year old male running with his dad’s bib and coming in second in the 50-59 age group).  This has effectively bumped the 3rd place runner into 4th which isn’t at all fair to the displaced runner.
    This is occasionally taken to an extreme when someone will pay another runner to run a race for them.  This is most commonly seen when people are trying to qualify for Boston and do not want to put in the time or work to qualify themselves.  To many, myself included, this is one of the lowest things that can be done in the competitive running community…right up there with doping.

So if you think about banditing a race or running under someone else’s name please don’t.  Not only are you in effect stealing from the directing organizations (which for most races are local organizations) and possibly misreporting results but it’s just a plain dick move.  There are enough A-holes in this world, let’s try and keep the running community free of them!

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