Philly runner and freelance writer Jen A. Miller had some strong words in the Inquirer earlier this week, for so-called “bandit” runners who may be considering running the Broad Street Run unregistered—i.e. without bibs, and without paying. Her main point: You are a jerk if you do it.
As for “banditing” (jumping in unregistered), this is a crowded race. There wouldn’t be a lottery otherwise. You might not think that one more person on the course makes a big difference, but keep in mind that you’re not the only one considering it.
Her reasoning includes the fact that water and Gatorade along the course aren’t in endless supplies, and bandits who slurp up the goods are basically stealing from people who paid for the privilege. Also (and I can attest to this, from personal experience) the Broad Street Run is insanely crowded these days—there’s a reason more than 4,700 runners didn’t win the lottery this year—so adding unregistered bodies to the race just makes the crowding problem, well, more of a problem. And besides, she writes, in a tone I hear as my mom’s own, “In running, as everything else, you can’t always get what you want.”
Miller isn’t alone in her anti-banditing sentiments: The internet is rife with examples of runners blasting bandits, calling them thieves, photobombers, and “uncaring individuals”. At the New York Marathon, a team of race-sanctioned volunteer “bandit-catchers,” who wear official credentials with those very words on them, literally chase down and bounce bandit runners off the course near the finish line—sometimes with police assistance.
That’s … pretty intense, especially considering that one of the bandits they bounced in the Times story linked above was a 10-year-old kid who wanted to run the last leg with his dad so they could cross the finish line. I mean, I get that bandits can be a nuisance, and it sucks that you paid and they didn’t, but chasing someone down and physically removing them seems like a tad extreme, like a citizen’s arrest. After all, it’s not like banditing is actually illegal. Also, I imagine that the sell-out New York Marathon is just as crowded as Broad Street, so jumping into the race near the finish line, chasing someone down, stopping them, and removing them seems pretty darn disruptive to me.
I asked a few runner friends if any of them have run bandit before and a few copped and said, sure, they had. In fact, now that I think of it, I guess I technically ran part of last year’s Philadelphia Marathon as a bandit, when a friend of mine asked me and 25 of her other friends to each run a mile with her. I jumped in at mile six, at Chestnut and 16th, and ran just over the bridge to University City, where I passed my friend off to her mile seven companion. Whoopsie. I guess I’m a horrible person.
How about you? Have you ever run bandit? Are you considering running Broad Street bandit if you can’t get a bib through the official channels? Are people who run Broad Street bandit wretched, evil people who should be chased and ejected? Take the poll below, then let’s discuss in the comments.
For the record (if you haven’t already deciphered), I’m not particularly outraged by bandit runners. Because I just think on the scale of Evil and Wrongdoing in the World, bandit runners don’t particularly register. I’m positive a lot of you will disagree, so go ahead and tell me how wrong I am.
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