To Bandit or Not?

in Running Life by

To bandit a race or not

It’s a question that I would have thought would divide the running community, but if you look at the comments on my FB page when this question is asked, you’ll see almost all, if not all of the comments are decidedly on one side of the argument.

At the finish line of the 2016 Los Angeles Marathon after officially running the race
At the finish line of the 2016 Los Angeles Marathon

But let’s back up a sec and define the term.

What is a Bandit?

A “Bandit” is someone who runs the race who has not officially signed up for it.

There are a few kinds:

  1. The one who jumps on the course without a bib.
  2. The one who steals a bib via social media.
  3. The one who has been given a bib from a friend who registered for the race.

For the first type of bandit, the issue is that these people aren’t accounted for in the amount of racers that the organizers planned to have on the course, potentially overburdening the medical staff, using up the water and nutrition and generally adding to the congestion of a given course.

For the second type, well, these are the people who I think should be banned for life from the race they stole. They have no right to be on the course, and they’ve literally stolen from the runner and who’s bib they copied and from the race organizers.

The third type of bandit can be broken into two subcategories.

  • The first is the innocent one. This bandit’s friend decided they can’t run the race for any given reason and offers his or her bib to a friend who is runs in his or her place. I don’t have much of a problem with this person as long as the bib wasn’t sold to them. If you paid for it and you can’t run it, suck it up.
  • The second is more nefarious. This is a person who signs up for a race with no intention of running it. They are using it as a qualifier for another race (most likely for Boston). Since they know they will never qualify on their own, they give the bib to a faster friend to run the race for them. I’m sure this has been happening for years, but it’s really come to light lately with the website This, is another person who I think needs to be banned. If you want to run an iconic race like Boston, you need to earn it. Or charity into the race (which is what I did back in 2012).

LA Marathon

And THEN, there’s a special place in hell for the person who stole my bib when I ran the LA Marathon in 2016

This is really the fourth kind of bandit, the in-person thief.

Someone actually went to the expo, picked up my bib as if they were me and ran the race. The person was somehow given the bib, ran the race and presumably finished. Not to mention, took advantage of the VIP access my entry came with.


To this day, I don’t believe that person was caught and I felt (and still feel) violated by his act.

Time to be honest

I’ll be completely honest, I’ve bandited races.

Back before I started this site, I thought nothing of just popping on a course and acting as if I was one of the registered runners or running the race in place of a friend who couldn’t make it. But since I started this site, my attitude has changed.

As cheesy as it may sound, I feel a sense of responsibility to the running community and the race organizers to follow the rules. I have a pretty big bullhorn with this site and if I thumb my nose at the rules, I’m basically telling anyone who reads this to do the same.

Not cool.

But I digress

I agree with the majority of folks who think that banditing is wrong.

But I’m not sure race organizers will ever be able to stop them, so as runners, we need to be vigilant and honest.

If you didn’t get into a race, chances are it will happen again next year, or there will be other races. Or join a charity if you can’t qualify. Running is such a popular sport these days that there are literally thousands of opportunities every year around the globe.


1 Comment

  1. I believe banditing is wrong, but I don’t count unofficial bib transfers as banditing. So many race directors draw the line at transfers–it’s utter nonsense. Today, when we have online registration, it isn’t difficult to transfer a bib online. Add a ten dollar charge; people will pay it. If a race director insists on no transfers, there will be plenty of people who do it anyway. It’s better to get it out in the open so the official information is correct.

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