Let’s suppose there is a race that goes right through your neighborhood or is being held in your favorite city. You forgot to register, or couldn’t afford to, or simply opted out, but you want to run the race anyway. You hop in about a half mile after the start line, bib-less or with a fancy bib you made on Microsoft Publisher, and start running. Every couple miles you swig a bit of free (stolen) Gatorade at the aid stations. You bow out about a half mile before the finish line. You have no official time, you were never documented as a runner.
What’s the big deal? You just wanted to take a run down a public street for a bit and, hey, they were giving out free sport’s drink, so why not taste a bit? Yeah, the thousands of other runners around you paid $145 to run the race but they got t-shirts and timing chips and you got nothing. What’s the big deal? The big deal is…
YOU ARE A BANDIT! You should be burned at the stake or at the very least, castrated.
Hard to know if they are bandits or not. Maybe the bib is on the butt of the Speedo.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday that I’m sure has people all up in arms. It addressed the epidemic of banditry, stating that while it’s not illegal, its very much frowned upon. Peter Sagal, host of Public Radio’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me and blogger for Runner’s World recently wrote about how he ran as a bandit in the Chicago Marathon last month. He made light of it, thought it was rather amusing. His readers did not. He received hate-filled and incredulous responses like this one:
“You took advantage of a closed course that other people paid for, took up space on the course that you were not entitled to, used resources at the aid stations (refilling your sports drink bottle) at the expense of registered runners, and now apparently feel no remorse or need to apologize for your actions. And you felt it was ok to do this because you are a "celebrity"? Because you are a host of a radio show on NPR? Because you write a column for Runner's World? As it turns out, all you are is just another self-absorbed jerk who thinks his importance justifies his actions.”
While most people spit venom, others didn’t see the harm in what Sagal did. “He ran on a city street with a bunch of other people to try to get his 20 miler in. Sounds like a good idea to me.”
Whenever I am questioning whether something is a good idea, like throwing a paper airplane or a watermelon off of a 29 story building (always tempting), I ask myself, “What if everyone did it?” Sure, one person throwing a paper airplane off of a building does not make a huge impact. But if hundreds of people did it, the streets would be clogged with litter. I think the same rule of thumb applies here. If one person runs as a bandit, while not “right,” it is relatively harmless. But if hundreds of people do it, we have a problem.
The other issue is fairness. Is it “fair” that you pay $145 to register for race or you bust your butt to get in through the lottery, while Public Radio dude hops in and runs for free? Doesn't seem right. Isn’t this the same thing as someone butting in line, sneaking into the movie theater or taking the HOV lane when they only have one person in the car? Banditry may not be illegal, but in my opinion, it’s still not the right thing to do. Plus, I’d be scared of getting in trouble.
Have you ever been a bandit it a race? Busted!! I had totally forgotten this, but Ken just reminded me that last year I ran 10 miles (miles 2-12) of a small local half marathon (not a charity run!) as a pacer for one of my running clients. Bowing my head in shame. I did bring my own fuel belt of that makes me any less of a schmuck.
What are your thoughts on banditry? No big deal or castration? Are there ever circumstances where it is acceptable?
PS: Thanks, Dad, for being well-read and always pointing out the good articles.