At most marathons, unregistered runners — known as bandits — are considered freeloaders preying on the good will of race organizers and official entrants.
Yet the Boston Marathon has long handled bandits with a light touch, turning a frowned-upon practice into a back-of-the-pack tradition.
But with tightened security for this year’s race, organizers have warned bandits they will not be allowed, and could be removed from the course.
The Marathon’s historic allure, combined with its rigorous qualifying times, has made it a magnet for bandits, observers say. While smaller marathons offer easy entry, they lack Boston’s prestige.
Boston and bandits have “gone hand in hand,” said Jack Fultz, a former marathon winner and the training adviser for the Dana-Farber marathon team. Before the Boston Athletic Association created the charity program in the late 1980s, thousands of people ran as bandits, knowing they would never qualify, Fultz said.
“There was no other way in,” he said.
The number of bandits has since declined, and the BAA has generally let them be. But this year, new security measures will make it far more difficult for unregistered runners, and Fultz said they won’t be missed.
“They will be the only ones who will notice the difference,” he said. “They were never really part of the race.”
Bandits are generally looked down upon in the running community. A spokeswoman for USA Track & Field, the governing body for distance running, likened the practice to “jumping a turnstyle or sneaking into a ballgame or a movie theater.”
“Entry fees from runners help cover logistical costs from road closures to police assistance, on-course hydration stations, and race planning,” said Jill M. Geer, chief public affairs officer for USA Track & Field. “Race bibs worn by official entrants also enable runners to be easily identified — a concern of obvious import to Boston in particular.”
Yet other runners say they are undeterred by the new restrictions. Lucas Suh, 31, said he has run as a bandit at four other Marathons, and has no plans to stop now.
“I’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “If they pull me they pull me.”
With a best time of 4:20, Suh cannot qualify for the race, but said he loves the thrill of running it.
Freaking downer man. Look, I totally get the whole increased security thing this year, and the last thing I’d wanna do is question it. But, TurtleBoy Sports isn’t the fastest growing blog in New England because we piss out lukewarm takes, so on that note, this is bullshit.
Guess who benefits from keeping bandits out of the Boston Marathon? The terrorists. Those two morons wanted to scare the shit out of us. They wanted us to live in fear and change everything we do. Guess what? They just won with this stupid rule.
The slogan of the day today was of course, “Boston Strong.” Our feelings on this slogan are well documented. It was a rallying point that had value for a couple days. Then it just became a new way to sell t-shirts. Every yahoo from Randolph to Plympton to Hamilton, who sat in their safe homes, miles and miles from the explosions, uses this catch phrase in a fruitless attempt to belong.
I grew pretty tired about hearing how “strong” we all were from April 15-19, 2013. I wasn’t strong. I was riding a magical turtle in the safe confines of Worcester. No one gives a shit about us enough to bomb us. Newsflash – the only “strong” people were, 1) the victims and their families, 2) the first responders, 3) anyone who lived in Watertown on April 18-19. That’s it. The rest of us were just spectators.
My question is, how “Boston Strong” are we if we’re threatened by the site of 140 pound joggers in t-shirts, running shoes, and short shorts? What are these people possibly gonna do? Lug a giant bomb with them all the way to Boston? Where are they gonna hide their bomb? Are they just gonna hope the 100,000 people they pass along the way don’t notice they’re carrying a weapon of mass destruction?
I’m also sick of the rhetoric about how amazing we are as Bostonians to recover from this senseless disaster. Like we’re some magical freaking people or something. We’re “Boston Strong.” We’re a special bunch. Right. So if this happened in Indianapolis or Houston, the people there would just cower in their bunkers, throw up their white flags, and surrender to the bad guys? Apparently Boston is the only city in America that isn’t part of France.
Bandits are a Boston Marathon tradition like none other. Thousands literally run every year. In Hopkinton there is even a designated area where the bandits wait together. They have their own corral too, which obviously goes last. Before they’re finally released onto the course, they are given the pre-race speech by some BAA stooge about not getting in the way of the registered runners. After that, it’s every man for themselves, and we’ll see ya at Copley Square.
The fact of the matter is that the Boston Marathon is one of the most selective races in the world, but it’s easily the most prestigious and nostalgic marathon that has ever existed. Fuck the Masters – the Boston Marathon is a tradition like none other. So it’s just not humanly possible for your average Masshole to qualify. Men aged 18-39 have to run around 3 hours (7 minute mile pace). And to qualify you have to have run ANOTHER marathon in that time. Do you understand what an accomplishment it is to just run ONE of these marathons? Never mind run a time fast enough to earn you the right to run ANOTHER marathon.
Take me for instance. When I’m not riding my magical turtle I can run under 17 minutes in 5k. But I can’t come close to getting under 3 hours in the marathon. Not by a long shot. My only option in Boston, despite growing up and dreaming about running this race one day my entire life, is to run as a bandit. Now that option is gone.
Why does this matter? Because I’m a local, God dammit. We should have some type of priority over all these carpetbaggers. People run this race from all around the nation and the world. The best of the best show up. How these people have the time to train and get this good is beyond me.
But your average Joe Schmo from Quincy dreams of just FINISHING the race. He doesn’t wanna smash any records or win any awards. He just wants to be a part of the greatest day of the year in Massachusetts. He wants to feel the adrenaline running through his body as thousands and thousands of strangers cheer him on through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston.
He wants to prove to himself that no obstacle in life is insurmountable. So he trained all through the harsh New England winter. He built his long run up from five miles, adding two miles on every other Sunday, until he was up to 25. He felt the pain of having to wake up on Monday and go to work, although his legs were exhausted and frail. He did all of that to prove that the mind can overcome the body, even when it’s screaming, “STOP, I wanna lie on the couch and get fat.”
Ya see, it’s not the guys from California and Kenya who can run this race in 2:20 that make this such an authentic race. It’s the people from the community who are doing it to prove to themselves that they are capable of unheralded greatness. They are running through their backyards, and want to show the world that this race still belongs to Boston. The rest of the runners are just guests.
And hey Jack Fultz, you just won the dooshnozzle of the week award. Bandits were “never really a part of the race”? Go tell that to the thousands of people every year who run as bandits. Sorry we can’t all be God damn marathon champions like you. Sorry we all can’t run the elite times necessary to qualify. You must feel quite accomplished on your high horse up there.
People like him are the worst. For the most part bandits are welcomed with open arms. The volunteers along the way (who are the unheralded stars of the race), never ask for their bib numbers when they give them water and gatorade along the way. The screaming babes in Wellesley don’t stop screaming when a bandit runs through. The people of Newton don’t stop pulling you up heartbreak hill because you don’t have a number on your chest.
So you’re wrong Jack. Bandits have always been a part of the race. They are the heart and soul of the race. They are the locals, who are running the race to raise money for a charity that the BAA didn’t pre-approve of. They didn’t want to commit to raising $5,000 by putting their credit card down and paying whatever they couldn’t raise. They didn’t wanna raise $5,000 for the Red Cross so they could pay their CEO another bonus on top of their million dollar salary and benefits. They didn’t want 39 cents of every dollar they raised to actually go to charity.
As for his comparison to sneaking into a movie theater, that’s actually pretty accurate. And if you do sneak into a movie theater without paying, good for you. It’s not stealing if you had no intention of paying in the first place. The movie theater and Miramax don’t lose any money whether or not you sneak in or stay at home. It’s not like the movie is sold out and you’re taking someone else’s seat. Same thing with the marathon – it’s not like they’re gonna run out of gatorade and Power Gel. They have BOXES of that stuff left over. So quit trying to make it seem like bandits are some sort of welfare leeches moron.
If it’s the fact that they’re freeloading which you object to, then take down their information after the race and bill them the $200 entry fee. They’d all gladly have paid it in the first place, if they were fast enough to qualify. But you wouldn’t do that, because it has NOTHING to do with money. It has to do with the fact that you’re an elitist running snob, who enjoys the fact that you’ve created this country club mentality for a race. The bandits aren’t as fast as you are, so you’re disgusted you’re even sharing pavement with them. You want these landless serfs out of your race, so the sophisticated bourgeoisie of the running world can have their day in the sun.
Well you elitists may have won this round, but the bandits will be back. It’s their race, not yours.
Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.