Recent posts about Jacob Seilheimer running the Boston Marathon have resulted in some interesting discussion, though much of it happened via e-mail rather than blog comments. Much of that discussion focused on his completing the race without having qualifying and registering for the race. For many, the idea that others bandit races is disturbing.
It is a topic worth discussing, because there are a great many views on the subject. Never one to shy away from a controversial issue, I'll take a crack at addressing it.
For some, the concern is that bandits "steal" resources from the race. As bandits don't pay entry fees, anything they use on race day is paid for by someone else. This can include drinks, gels, paid and volunteer workers on the course, etc. Those who make this argument believe that everyone should pay their fare share.
The counter argument is that those resources are already there, and unless a bandit uses items that eventually result in a paid entrant NOT getting the support they need, the supposed harm is minimal. If a bandit drinks even 12-15 cups of Gatorade, the cost is minimal, given it would have been thrown out, anyway.
Another concern offered is that bandits somehow diminish the value of the race. The event is set up for serious athletes who are willing to at least put their name on the dotted line. Bandits have little invested in the race and distract from its nature.
The response to this argument tends to be that bandits have many reasons for opting out of signing up. Sometimes there is the cost. Other times there are other motives for running the race and paying to enter is counterproductive. Sometimes, runners just like supported training runs. While some bandits might somehow diminish the value of the race, others contribute to the event in their own way.
A third objection is that bandits, being unregistered, represent a risk to the race director and sponsor. If they were to be injured while running the race, the event would be at risk of a lawsuit. As the runner never signed a consent and release form, they can hold the race officials liable for any injury incurred. Many events are non-profit, and the risk of litigation poses a real and significant threat.
Others would counter that anyone running on the course without a registration would have no right to hold the race responsible for any injuries incurred on the course. They have no consent and liability form because they have no hold against the event. They are private individuals using public property for their exercise. If this argument is allowed in order to limit bandits from running the entire race, it would also have to be applied to any and all public traffic on the course. Just as spectators wouldn't have a valid claim if they twist their ankle running across the race course, bandits wouldn't have a valid claim if they are injured while running. Most would argue that any successful lawsuit of this nature is sign of a flawed judicial system.
One of the comments on Jacob's site indicated that Jacob hadn't, in fact, run the Boston Marathon. What he had done was completed a 26.2 mile run along the same route on the same day. In fact, it should be noted that many of the pictures on his site show him running on the sidewalk. If he had completed the journey in a more timely manner, would it make any difference? As an unregistered runner, he would have basically been doing a supported, well attended, widely broadcast training run.
On the other hand, do athletes have the right to expect that the person running next to them is a registered participant. What responsibility to we have to self-police ourselves? Is running as a bandit akin to cheating? After all, it is unacceptable to transfer bib numbers (unless allowed by the event directors). How would we respond if someone earned a slot at Kona in the 40-49 age group when they were 38?
Or is banditing something completely different?
Please share your thoughts. Keep in mind that while we may feel passionately about the subject, this is a friendly discussion and the opinions of others should be honored, regardless of agreement. Let the debate begin.