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Is it cool to run bandit (without paying) in a race?

Illustration by Wade Mickley

PrintYES: Run like you stole something! 

“Go ahead and do it! They’ll never know,” says the tiny, pitchfork-wielding voice perched upon my left shoulder. Glancing to my right for an opposing point of view, I hear only chirping crickets. That’s my cue to line up with the other runners and try to hide the fact that my bib is “missing.” This is called being a bandit and I contend that it is not as unethical as many would have you believe.

Am I allowed to run these streets any other time of the year without paying a dime? Absolutely! Why must I now pay $30 – $150 to run in a crowd when my tax dollars pay to maintain this stretch of pavement? If the race is held off-road, there is no excuse for paying money to the ever-growing list of trail runs so that I may enjoy Mother Nature’s gifts.

“But wait! You’re depriving charities of money.” No, no I’m not. I would not have paid for the race either way. Furthermore, some of the charities that your entry fee funds are simply preposterous. If the blue-footed, wingless owl can’t survive without my $3, then Charles Darwin would be pleased with my decision to “liberate” a spot in the race. If your inner Robin Hood will not allow you to participate for this reason, bandit the race and give a couple bucks to whatever charity is the sponsor.

Anyone who wants to condemn me for this point of view needs to take a look in the mirror before pointing the accusatory finger. Ever taken extra condiment packets from a restaurant? A towel from a hotel? Or download music without paying? The people lifting office supplies from work are usually the same people who sit atop their high horses and criticize me for race jumping. So I say, the next time you want to participate in a race that is over capacity or just too expensive, grab your significant other, jump the barricade and Bonnie & Clyde your way to the finish.

Dave Schlagman blogs at Adventures in Running and races across the U.S.

NO: Bandit No More

The bib-less run among us. They gum up aid stations, photobomb our race pics, and steal our bananas at the finish line. I know this because I was once among their number, led down the primrose path to banditry. Let me tell you why it’s not such a hot idea. (In fact, I felt so dirty after the last one, I suffered through an ice bath for thirty minutes.)

If you wouldn’t run a red light, steal cookies from the Girl Scouts, or sneak into a concert, you shouldn’t be running a race you haven’t paid for. You can avoid the water stations or not cross the finish line, but look around you. Not only did the other racers pay for the privilege, you’re throwing off the place they finish in, overtaxing the volunteers, ignoring any charities involved, and you’ll wind up making the next race more expensive for everyone else.

I can hear the bandits, and my old self, now: “If jumping a race is wrong, so is going 28 in a 25. Or using a sick day to go shopping. Or checking Facebook on the clock!” Yes, many have committed these seemingly victimless crimes at least once. But imagine if everyone did, or if everyone applied the same logic to worse misdemeanors. Now, imagine if we all showed up for the same race, sans payment. Picture the hysteria of this mass stealing!

Yes, as a bandit you are stealing: a paying racers’ finish time, the ‘crete of the streets, even the aid in the PowerAde. And let’s say you stumble upon the Race to End Explosive Diarrhea 5K on a cool Sunday morning and join the masses, only to end up in the fetal position yourself at the finish line? Not so victimless anymore! Don’t even think about suing those poor race directors when they leave you high and not so dry. Without a bib, you should automatically be considered a DNR, even if you don’t claim that free-to-you 1:39 half marathon as your PR.

So get your ass off the course unless you’ve worked your ass off to pay the entry fee.

Jinger Moore is a blogger with, a collaborative blog for women runners who love running (ethically) fast.

What’s your take on running bandit? Let us know in the comments below!

or if you want to race legally without paying, enter our Race Ahead Giveaway to win free entry to your favorite races in the Blue Ridge!

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