Broad Street Etiquette: Is It Okay to Run Without a Bib?

If you were unable to register back in February, will you run Broad Street, anyway?

Photo from Flickr user aquarian librarian

I’m a rule follower—always have been, always will be. The first year I ran Broad Street (it was the first race I’d ever run, by the way), I meticulously read through the rules beforehand and learned that headphones are strictly forbidden. (Don’t believe me? Read it and weep.) Then I panicked because I absolutely can’t run without music. It took my friends several days to convince me that almost everyone breaks the rules and runs with headphones, and that there wouldn’t be Official Broad Street Run Referees on race day charged with disqualifying headphone-wearing runners. And they were right.

I bring this up because it’s also a rule at most races, whether written or implied, that you can’t run without a bib, the piece of paper bearing your competitor’s number that you pin to your shirt; it signifies that you went through the proper channels—and paid the money—to officially register for the race. The Broad Street rules don’t expressly ban non-registered runners, but they do mandate that “you must wear your official competitor’s number on the FRONT of your shirt”—which, obviously, presumes that you have an official competitor’s number to begin with.

There are downsides to running without being registered, of course, including that your time won’t be recorded. But for many recreational, noncompetitive runners, that tiny detail might not actually matter: Since you’re not aiming to place in the event, you can track your own time with a stopwatch—problem solved.

Needless to say, I’ve never run a race for which I wasn’t properly registered. But with so many runners shut out of Broad Street this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see lots of people show up on race day sans bib. And is that … okay? Since there doesn’t seem to be an actual rule forbidding it, is it kosher to get in on the fun if you didn’t register ahead of time? Or do renegade runners break some sort of Silent Oath of Running by participating in events without having paid the fees like the rest of us?

Runner’s World posted a poll on its Facebook page recently posing exactly this question. A huge majority—we’re talking over 80 percent here—responded that running without a bib is “100 percent WRONG!” Six percent said it’s okay so long as you don’t drink the water or Gatorade provided at aid stations.

What do you think? Is running without a bib okay? Have you ever done it? Are you planning to run Broad Street—gasp!—unregistered? Tell us in the comments.