Running is free. Racing is not.

By | September 27, 2011 3:14 am | 9 Comments

My husband came home from running the half-marathon at the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle on Sun., Sept. 18 and told me about an Erie runner who boldly stood at the start line, talking at length about how he did not pay to race. Yet, there he stood, at the start line, ready to run 13.1 miles with all the other people who ponied up.  He even bitched about how he would probably place in his age group but it wouldn’t count because bandits don’t get race times (No check/cash? No chip. No chip? No time).

For those of you who are new to racing – people who race without paying are called bandits and while some may debate whether they are “stealing” anything from anyone, I think most would agree it’s just a crappy, low-life thing to do.

Mr. Bandit said, “why should I have to pay to run around the peninsula?”

Um, you don’t, but kindly step over to the multipurpose trail and drink from the park fountains, my friend.

Mr. Bandit felt justified in running for free because the day-of-race fees were outrageous.  I’ll give him that (it was $100, I think to do the half on the day of), but… the reality is that those day-of-race fees for the Erie Marathon events are deliberately meant to be outrageous to discourage people from waiting until the morning of the race to sign up. Put another way, it’s a whole lot cheaper to preregister – even as late as the day before.

You can’t imagine the work that goes into putting on a race like the Erie Marathon (and remember it’s all volunteer…all of it) and last-minute registrations and day-of-race registrations make it impossible for them to plan, so they discourage them.  That’s the race directors’ prerogative.

But, what bugs me about Mr. Bandit is that he could’ve legitimately run that race for free — with a bib number and a chip — had he volunteered a few hours of his time.

With two runners in our family, race fees add up. Dan & I save money  by volunteering (most race directors give you a free race entry for volunteering).  I worked packet pickup at the Erie Marathon on Saturday afternoon and Dan arrived extra early on marathon day & helped park cars.

So Dan didn’t shell out a $1 either, but there he stood with a chip on his shoe, a bib on his shirt and the peace of mind of knowing he earned his space at the start line.

Mark Remy, Runner’s World columnist and author of “The Runner’s Rule Book: Everything a Runner Needs to Know, and Then Some” writes this about bandits:

Rule 2.1 A — Don’t complain about the race entry fee

Hey,  no one is holding a gun to your head. Don’t like the fee? Find a smaller (read: cheaper) race. But whatever you do…

 

Rule 2.1B — Pay Your Way

Bandit a race, and your stealing, pure and simple

If you’re preparing a spirited defense—a laundry list of all the rationalizations you’ve dreamed up to justify running a race without paying for it—save your breathe (really…do). I’ve heard them all. And they’re all nonsense.

Staging a race costs real money. If you can’t afford to pay your share, there are plenty of other roads for you to use on race day.

Running is free. Racing is not.

What do you think of bandits? Does it irk you that you paid and they didn’t?

Do you just want to climb up & knock me off my soapbox?

Does the whole thing kinda smack of Ebert Beeman? Or is it just me?

NOTE: I’m going to close comments on this post now (9/29) because I don’t want it to become a series of personal attacks.