I have run more than 200 races since 2008 and Thursday night was the first time I have been a “bandit”. This particular race is known to be loosely organized and no official times are kept with the exception of the overall winners. What’s more, this race is promoted as a 4000 person “fun run” where many runners drink beer before the start. The question of the day is, “Is it acceptable to bandit races? I will add a poll at the bottom of this page for you to vote, but first let’s examine the anti-bandit point of view.
There are a number of factors to consider when race jumping. Most importantly, race directors generally count on a 10% “no show” to their events and have the appropriate amount of support to accommodate the registered participants. Anything over their calculated totals could result in a lack of water and support for the people that paid to be there. Secondly, if you are racing for a personal time, you are an obstacle to other runners which alters their official time on the course. Also, what happens if you collapse from the heat or illness and medical personnel are stretched thin on a hot day? Not to mention some of the great charities that are the beneficiaries of these race who now are deprived of your entry fee.
The primary argument I support from the pro-bandit crowd is that the streets are built and maintained with taxpayer dollars. These are the streets we all run everyday and any other day people would not have an issue. You can bring your own water and not accept a finish medal at the end. Furthermore, when entering a race my main concern is the official time and that is something you don’t receive if you are a bandit. Do we get our money back when a race director screws up the timing, has a lack of water or no medals? No we don’t! Following this philosophy, who are they to tell you that you can’t run in a particular public place on a particular day? Some would say this is stealing but I have to ask, “what tangible item are you walking away with for free?”
Lastly, there is a gray area. I can appreciate the arguments from both sides but even if I lean toward the “anti-bandit” side, there are certain races that are usually part of a much larger non-running event and put together as a novelty. This was the case for the race I participated in on Thursday night. I could not find any information that there were any charities involved and no one could explain where all that money actually ended up. I did not accept any water at the station and ran on the outside lane of the course because I wanted to run a good pace and not knock anyone over in the process.
So if you are a “bandit” or a “by the rules” runner, I don’t have any problem with you. You must decide for yourself if it is an ethical practice. Personally, I will not bandit race again and as long as no one “bandits” my wallet from my car, I support all runners doing what they need to do to run.
Run for fun and race to place everyone!© Copyright 2012 The Hornet, All rights Reserved. Written For: Adventures In Running