MagazineJune 2004Is it ok to run 'bandit' in a race?

Is it ok to run ‘bandit’ in a race?


I would love to say I have never done it, but I’d be lying. I’m a competitive runner and try to always pay entry fees for races. However, I have run bandit in a couple of races because I missed the registration deadline or the race was full. I’ve only done it because I was a training partner for someone or was supporting friends new to the experience. Ethically, if the race is to raise money for a cause, it really is wrong. But I know that many people who pay to run the races don’t show because of injury, apathy, etc. I figure I’m just filling in the gap.


I certainly don’t encourage banditry, but I think it’s okay to run bandit once in a while. If you want to run a race, hang out with your friends, wrap yourself in the camaraderie of race day, or just appreciate a great trail, but, for some reason, either couldn’t get in the race or can’t afford the (often exorbitant) entry fee, then I say tie the laces and head for the park. While banditry may in fact be “unfair” or “rude”, I think we should encourage participation as much as we can while hoping and understanding that the majority of folks will pay more often than not.

John Strange, Durham, N.C.

I’ll have to admit that I have run bandit a few times in my past running career, but every time I did it, I was running with a friend usually as a pacer or just for encouragement. We were also way back in the pack and not interfering with the people who were truly racing. I made sure not to enter the timing chute so I wouldn’t mess up the results. I always carry my own fluid replacement and don’t partake of the race’s goodies, either at aid stations or after the race.

Jim Goodrum, Asheville, N.C.

As an impoverished college student I understand not wanting to pay the fee for a race. However, often times the money gained from these races goes to charity or to support running programs in the area, plus you get a cool t-shirt. Many people volunteer their time to put together and run these events. So skip a couple morning trips to Starbucks and use that $20 to help support your local running organizations and charities.

<em>Adrienne Dass, Charlottesville, Va.</em>

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The majority of races are run by volunteers and all race entry fees go to some charity or another. For someone to just run bandit is in reality disrespectful to all the people that the charity is supporting. If you want to run a 5k or 8k race route, do it some other day than the race.

<em>Joanna Lilley, Radford, Va.</em>

There are no excuses for doing an event that you have not entered. This includes events other than running races. As a former officer of the Asheville Bicycle Racing Club, I feel so strongly about this that we have a clause included in our membership: “No rider will wear any ABRC club jersey while riding ‘bandit’ in an event. All riders who wear an ABRC club jersey will properly enter events and pay the appropriate entry fees.” We don’t want our club or its sponsors represented as freeloaders.


Race organizers spend countless hours organizing the event for the paying participants. They do thankless tasks like getting the proper permission from land owners/DOT officials, etc. Most promoters are volunteering their services and don’t usually get paid. (And if they do get paid, it’s probably less than minimum wage after figuring how many hours they spent on it). If you think it’s okay to race “bandit”, you really need to put on an event to see how much work it is.

<em>Janet Hall, Weaverville, N.C.</em>

Running as a bandit in a race is discourteous not only to the race directors and race sponsors but the other participants as well. When I pay an entry fee, I’m not just helping to offset the costs of advertisement, race t-shirts, water stops, and medical personnel, I’m making a statement that I respect the sport enough to play by the rules.

Elizabeth Abbey, Blacksburg, Va.

If you have ever been on the other side directing, managing, or raising funds for a race you know how much work is involved. Race directors especially deserve the entry fees after making sure the course is safe, measured, fully staffed with volunteers, emergency services, drinks , sport beverages, gels, police, etc. Who do the bandits think is paying for all these details to make a race successful? How would you feel as the race director if someone ran as a bandit?

Laurie England, Washington D.C.

As I see it, being a bandit is like stealing. Entry fees usually cover numerous costs of a race (permits, traffic control, aid stations, etc.), all of which a bandit is taking advantage of without paying.

<em>Aaron Saft, Christiansburg, Va.</em>

Running bandit in an organized race is not fair to the paying runners or the organizers of the race. Often the entry fee goes to a charity or covers expenses for the race. It’s only fair to the paying runners that their competition also pays and that the course won’t be overcrowded by bandits.

Allie Cryns, Clemson, S.C.

Whether it supports the local running club, medical research, or helps a local SPCA pay for dog food, I gladly pay my entry fees. Fees help cover the cost for t-shirts, bibs, advertising, and other miscellaneous items. To run the race without “donating” to me is in the poorest taste. If you can’t cough up the entry fees, run the route the day after the race.

<em>Rebecca A. Van Kerkvoorde, Verona, Va.</em>

No big deal if you’ve raced bandit once but don’t make it a rule. As a competitive runner, I’ve never done it because I like to feel like I am fully committed to a race and see my name in the results. Moreover, that’s my charity work and way of giving back to the community as most races are for a good cause. True, race fees seem to have gone up but our sport is still beautifully simple and low in cost compared to most sports.

<em>Ann McGranahan, Blacksburg, Va.</em>

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