When banditing a race is ok

I live in NYC where the NYRR races are getting pretty pricey. I reflect on a time when the most I had ever paid for one was $15. It was affordable if I ever wanted to “race” with others to see how I had improved while training by myself. After all, running is free right? The price has surged as everyone appears to have joined the wagon. Don’t worry, this is a very good thing. Running seems to be one of the most cost-effective exercises that anyone can do.
banditAnyway, I decided to post this because I had a pretty long discussion with a few runners after the Brooklyn Half marathon, a pretty popular borough race that NYRR holds and AirBNB currently sponsors. I paid $65 (it was $55 last year) for it. It was my 4th time running, and possibly last (as of my thought-process now). It’s the first half marathon that I ran. Since it’s a popular race, it gets sold out pretty quickly if you’re indecisive about running it the moment that it’s opened. I bought entrance on January 21st as soon as it was opened.
The discussion I asked about the race was to question whether it was ok to copy bibs to get into the race. Sure, anyone could jump in and run along but, to get through security, into a specific corral, and to receive a finisher medal—a bib is required. Some people actually run for others, which I don’t condone either, but I have done it and most likely won’t again.* Many have come in to pace others (but for some races pacers bring their own supplies or coordinate with the event to get pacer bibs).
The bib that I’m aware of was copied to get into the race and the culprit also shown wearing the medal in the end. I’ll be honest, this is a bit of Schadenfreude because last year this girl was one of the reasons why I had to stay clear of many runners who were her friends on social media. I don’t know her personally but she got into trouble earlier for copying bibs. I certainly won’t post her name because she does have a following online like I do.
However, this incident totally reminded me of the Boston runners who copied a runner’s badge off Instagram. When the subject was brought up to her friend I had a pretty clear perspective of the other side of the discussion which was:
“Omg. Why can’t people just get a life and worry about themselves”
I do agree with that. However, I pointed out that many people didn’t get to run because they were late to sign up and the race was sold out. Some were pretty upset by it, hence how I became knowledgeable of what occurred. Hundreds didn’t get to run. She responded:
“There were a million bibs up for grabs. I know so many people who didn’t run and had a bib… Well then maybe they should have found a way!”
Although that might be an exaggeration of numbers seeing only thousands run this race, I disagreed. Not many people cheat, and cheat well at that. Not every person has access to a really good scanner and printer. Also, can you imagine if everyone that wanted to run the half suddenly did the same thing? What if a few more hundred people wanted to. That’s capacity that the race organizers didn’t expect. There are many runners who did the fair thing by joining a charity to help others to get into the race. Her friend didn’t pay, copied the bib, and I was told picked up a medal in the end.
One of my favourite articles that I read way back when was by Peter Segal, who I love from Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. He discusses his experience when he bandit a race. He brought his own gatorade and chews but ran out and had to refill at stations, which he hadn’t planned on. When he mentioned it in another article, he said, “I had been called a thief, a self-absorbed jerk, an idiot, an embarrassment to my employer (NPR, where I am the host of Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me!) and to this magazine, and a “minor celebrity.” I was scolded, threatened with violence–”Someone should smash him to the ground”–and roundly condemned.
I like the part where his professor said “I understood this as a formal statement of the turnstile principle: If you jump a turnstile, the subway will run fine without your $2.25. If everybody jumped the turnstile, the subway would collapse for a lack of funds, and nobody would go anywhere.”
What I especially like about the article was when he spoke to the race director and the very reasons that I think banditing isn’t a good idea. I’ll quote after I explain my personal reasoning about why I don’t think banditing a race is ok:
– Being that I volunteered at races before, I know that it takes a bit of us to make everything run smoothly but there might not be enough support based on the wrong count.
Race directions. Sometimes the course changes or there are certain rules that the bandit won’t know. They might head in the wrong direction taking a few runners with them.
Resources. I would hate that a bandit is holding up the line to the bathroom, or taking up valuable parking spaces at the beginning of races.
Security. There’s a record of every person who has signed up for the race.
Medical. A runner passed out at the half marathon and CPR was administered to him. I’m not sure what became of him but there’s a story that they had to try to give him chest compressions as well. At the back of the bib, the emergency contact is there to be filled out but when you’re registered for most races, your next of kin or emergency contact is already accounted for.
emergency This is how it looks for NYRR under your membership. For other races, I had to add my emergency contact prior to purchasing entry.
Advertising. Since I’ve seen behind the scenes of how some races have been organized I’m aware of some of the cost of runners swag, medals, advertising (website campaigns etc), nutrition and hydration that goes about organizing the event.
As for the race director about Peter banditing the Chicago Marathon “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. We forecast all our allotted resources, fluids, security, medical personnel, against a certain number of participants.
So tell me, why should this be ok for runners to do?
Truly, this person might not be the last person to do this but I hope this post lets others know why banditing might not be ok.
Footnote:
*I ran for a young lady who needed 9 + 1 to get into the NYC marathon. Her job wanted her out of town for the weekend of her race. Instead of a wasted bib and losing her race to get into the marathon, I decided to run in her corral by pacing a friend who belonged to that corral (the very last corral). This assured me that I wouldn’t race it. I used that run to begin my weekend long run since I was going to be in the park anyway (I didn’t have to go out of my way). It’s certainly not right but the reason why I thought it wasn’t wrong was because I wasn’t trying to move her up a corral, I even brought my own supplies even if I didn’t need to, and I wear a roadID.

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8 thoughts on “When banditing a race is ok

  1. Tasha Lessington-Esq

    Totally agree with Meghan, I’d rather pay a small penalty and allow my bib to be transferred. Last year while doing my 9+1 I met a fellow runner who had missed two of her races (2 that I actually could’ve ran) because last minute had to be out of town and we had this very discussion. If nyrr had a bib exchange outlet that would be awesome.

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