The Boston Bandits

By: Brad Deel

Unless you have not had access to the internet in the last few days, you have probably heard of the Boston Marathon Bandits.  In case you have been living without electricity, four people apparently copied bib number 14285 from social media and generated their own bibs.  This was discovered when the legitimate bib registrant clicked on a link allegedly leading to pictures of her during the race.  Lo and behold, four other people were pictured.  Here they are.  

It is fair to ask, "is this a big deal?"  It is not like these folks murdered someone or broke into a house late at night or established a new Mexican drug cartel.  In the grand scheme of things, you would be right.  It is not a big deal.  It probably does not rise to the level of something our limited police resources need to investigate.  But it is still wrong.  Why?

The obvious objection is that the bandits are stealing.  The people who pay to enter the race pay, in part, for all of the security along the route and all of the support to include aid stations and medical support for the race.  Bandits require additional support that is not paid for so they steal race resources.  

If there are too many bandits, it can create a safety issue.  Races plan the amount of support, including water, based on the weather and the number of participants.  If too many extra people begin using those resources, the race could run out before the last legitimate participants reach that point in the race.  

In my mind though, the worst thing is potential mis-identification by medical personnel.  If a runner collapses on the course, medical personnel will contact race personnel to identify the runner.  It is possible that the legitimate runner has a medical condition such as diabetes noted on his or her race entry.  Medical personnel might then begin treating the person under the assumption that he or she is a diabetic.  (I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV so I do not know how likely this is nor do I know if it would actually be dangerous).  Worse, they might notify the legitimate runner's emergency contact person that his or her loved one collapsed on the course.

I get that people want to run in the Boston Marathon.  I ran it in 2013 and it was a terrific experience.  However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about things.  If you want to run a race but simply cannot afford the expense of the entry fee, write to the race director.  My guess is that major races probably would not accomodate you but smaller races just might.  Better yet, go volunteer.  Many races give volunteers comped entries into future races.  OTOH, if you bandit a race just because you do not want to pay the fee or because you could not otherwise obtain entry, then I have nothing for ya.  You deserve all the social shame that may be heaped on you.

Racing is a wonderful activity and the reality is that small, local races cost no more than a trip to the movie theater.  There are even plenty of half marathons out there for $50 or less.  Plus, small races may give you a free entry if you truly cannot afford to race.  The bottom line is that there is no excuse for running as a bandit.  

See ya out there.

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