On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some of you may have already seen this, but it's quite interesting so I'm happily reposting it. Over the weekend, on the New York Road Runners facebook page, someone posted two links to information about being a bandit catcher for the NYCM.

There was an article in the New York Times three years ago, and in 2006 someone posted on a listserv a detailed description of what it was like to do this.

Interesting reading.

People see banditing as a victimless crime, and to some extent it is. But then again, it's not. Course limits are there for a reason, for one thing, and then for another thing: participation in a race is a privilege we pay for. I agree in particular with the facebook comment that likens banditing to stealing.

As much as I might complain about how hard it is to get into the race, or how expensive it is to get into the race, banditing is not okay. When I ran the last 6 miles of the Chicago Marathon with my sister (for her first!), they offered me a medal at the end - which I declined. Personally, and you might disagree, I see a difference between a friend jumping in to run part of the course with you (as long as they are respectful and don't take aid) and someone deliberately trying to run a race they haven't registered for.

Step one in training for a race is figuring out how to register for it, and doing that. There's no glory in finishing a race you're banditing, even if they do give you a medal at the end. You've taken aid that was intended for those of us who paid, you've congested an already busy course further, and you've cheated, plain and simple.

One of my favorite things to read around marathon time is this blog, where Jonathan Cane tracks down people who have cheated the NYCM. It's kind of shocking to me how many people cut the course.

Now, personally, I think more races should have a legal bib transfer system to help prevent banditing - but that's another complaint for another day! Speaking of which, anyone have an MCM bib they want to (legally) sell me?


  1. One friend of mine ran the last 6 miles with me at the MCM last year. She jumped off right before the finish line. I see no problem with that. Even if she had paced me for the whole thing.

    Then 2 friends from my running group ran as bandits, got their mylar blanket so they could "hide" the part where the bib should have been, and each got a medal. THAT for me is like stealing. I see no difference between that and going to Target and going home with something you didn't pay for.

    If they had gone to Craiglist and bought someone's bib and ran under someone else's name? Then it would be ok, they didn't pay for the race, but they would be reimbursing someone who did, I think it evens out.

  2. I don't think running alongside a friend for part of a course is cheating as long as you don't partake of finisher spoils. But acting like you're a registered runner is CHEATING...and cheaters make the rest of us look bad.

    But bib transfer policies (or no-refund policies in some) do provide incentive to bandit, in some cases. I don't understand why some races make it so difficult.

    I transferred my MCM bib last year when I had to drop out...got snapped up quickly. Just monitor the FB page around September.

  3. I think banditing a whole race is wrong too - but was so happy my best friend ran the last 6 miles of Madison with me. The course cheaters don't surprise me - Steven said he saw people jump on the L in chicago during the marathon last year!

    I do wish more races allowed bib transfer. When I was injured/poorer, there were a few races I couldn't do.

  4. I don't understand people who cut the course. You're really only cheating yourself. Unless you pull a Rosie Ruiz and actually fake winning the thing, who else is going to care if you finished 432nd or 532nd?

  5. Debbie, I *wholeheartedly* agree. It doesn't make ANY sense to me!