Are Bandit Runners at the Broad Street Run Horrible People? Let’s Discuss.

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.

She writes:

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.

POLL: Do You Think Running Bandit at Broad Street Is a Crime?

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  • Annie

    I had some people run with me during both of my Philadelphia Marathons, but they didn’t take any of the refreshments purely because they knew they didn’t register. There’s also a difference between someone running the entire race for themselves or a kid jumping in for a mile with his dad. I think it’s more of a nuisance dealing with people who have no sense of race etiquette and clog up the course by taking selfies in the middle of the road.

  • Maggie

    As someone who has run Broad Street before, and was truly frustrated by the crowded conditions (even though I’m not a really fast runner), I would have to say that I wouldn’t care if there were “bandit” runners, as long as the RUN the race. If they’re going to “bandit” the race and then walk most of it, slowing others down who are trying to run, those people should be ousted, as that’s not fair to those who did pay to play.

    • Emily Leaman

      Agreed! Running is an absolutely MUST for everyone who participates. In fact, the race rules state exactly that — that this is a running race, not a walking race.

  • Rebecca

    When people ask me, I always tell them to not bandit. It’s not fair to the event planners, who apply for permits based upon the registered amount of runners and could get in trouble if more show up. Bandits, like Jen’s article say, are essentially stealing from those who got in and paid. It stinks that someone didn’t get into a race, but instead of banditing, it’s best to find a new race and not affect others negatively.

  • Erin

    Am I the only person out of the 15 percent not selected in the lottery who had parents that taught me I don’t get to have everything I want? I have trouble understanding how anyone would even consider running bandit. Grow up.

    • Paul Bobnak

      Well said – I agree 100%. Life isn’t fair & there is no constitutional right to run in any race you want. Jen’s article lays out the argument very well.

  • katklaw9

    I am on the fence. My sister ran a bunch of my first half with me. It was in the middle of a bad flu and I never would have made the end without her. This year, I didn’t get in the lottery because I fell on ice and hit my tailbone hard. At the deadline, I could still barely walk. I just got back to running (kind of) and am feeling really left out with all the stuff happening with my team that runs it every year. It’s for their non-profit in honor of a friend’s dad and benefiting Fox Chase Cancer Center. A couple of them said to just pay the donation part and run it with the team shirt. It is tempting, but it might not even be an option physically, so I haven’t judged the morality of it yet. Never really thought about it before because I generally love medals irrationally.