Ban The Bandits (And Other Cheats)

So Runner’s World author Amanda Furrer (you can find her here & here) and editor Jeff Dengate supported the action of banditing “correctly” by publishing an online article titled:

Do Not Bandit Ever. Or at Least Don’t Be an Asshole

I’m from New Jersey. We’re no strangers to cursing. But when you run what is normally a non-trashy publication, I’m not a fan. (Realize that this was the online headline – the print version wasn’t with a profanity in the title – “The Worst Thing You Can Do Isn’t Even That Bad”.) This isn’t an underground zine –  Runner’s World has a massive worldwide following, the majority of whom are not professional or elite runners. Most novice runners that never ran before or have not competed in school are unaware of the rules regarding competitive running (your pace dictates your corral/heat placement, external aid normally results in disqualification, purchasing a bib for a non-transferable race can result in a DQ/ban from the race series, technically earphones are a reason for disqualification in many USATF championship races, etc). The rules of racing vary from race to race & level of competition – but this is blog written with regards to the races that explicitly ban banditing – the practice of running on a race course without legitimately paying for or being compensated a registration bib, or the permission of the race director to do so. Publishing this piece was careless on the part of the editor that approved the article as well as the author.

One of the most entitled reasons to bandit cited by Furrer: “There are plenty of reasons, the first of which is money. Running the New York City Marathon, for instance, costs $295. While this expense goes toward necessities like road closures, security, race-day fuel, and porta-potties, it’s a fee some just can’t afford—and the race’s fame is enticing enough that some runners don’t want to take on a smaller, cheaper event.”

You don’t WANT to take on a smaller, cheaper event? Sometimes you don’t get what you want. That’s life. If you can’t pay, don’t play. It’s not that hard of a concept. Just because you can’t afford that Valentino purse doesn’t give you permission to steal it. Imagine telling the police officer, “But I WANTED it! Therefore I DESERVED to have it!” If you can’t afford the amazing experience that is running at the NYC marathon, and you ABSOLUTELY have to run the race, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Save the money as a priority (have you forgotten that running in USATF certified races are a luxury, not a right?) if it’s something your heart yearns to do. Somehow the members of society that support this immoral method of thinking have forgotten the concept of hard work for what it is you wish to have in this life. There’s also the option of raising the money for a charity. Better yet, get out there on race day & CHEER. Cheer your heart out – because guess what, that’s one way to aid the runners that’s within the rules. And perhaps it will motivate you to not purchase something extraneous every other day in order to save up to run your dream race. All running actually requires is a pair of running sneakers (and some barefoot runners will challenge you on that). Everything else is icing on the cake & keeping up with the Joneses.

Another reason cited: “Aside from the expense, getting into big races is no easy feat (qualifying times, lotteries). And then there’s the fear of failure. We see you headcases jumping in so you have the option of quitting without a DNF.”

Hmm. Qualifying times a problem? Run faster. I’m a big fan of giving it everything you’ve honestly got to try and achieve a goal. Or commit to fundraising for a charity bib. Both will be legal ways to enter your dream race (unless your dream race is the Olympic Trials, in which case – run faster.) Lotteries? Again, fundraise for a charity bib. Or accept the fact that your not being accepted by lottery is happening for a reason and the reason may not make itself clear until later in your training cycle. The lottery is random in order to maintain a fair and even chance for everyone who wishes to run to be given the opportunity to race.

The fear of failure is a personal mentality issue. I didn’t call you a headcase, Furrer did. I’m aware that bandits have a lack of moral integrity by already jumping in without paying, but perhaps you need to learn how to own responsibility for your actions and your race times. If you don’t have the strength to be able to do this then perhaps you shouldn’t be racing at the moment. So what if you have a DNF or a poor time? If it’s honest, own it and move onwards. If not, then I hope it’s DQ’d and made null & void. Taking pride in something that isn’t your own is called being fraudulent. You’re being deceitful. Your race time is your own. Failure is a part of racing and running, being honest with yourself as a runner in your training and in life is something that helps mindset immensely instead of making excuses. Failure will happen. It happens more often to some than others. But being fearful of it helps no one.

Furrer: “Here’s my confession: Back in 2010, I bandited the Boston Marathon. It was the first time I ever ran 26.2, and I had a few joyful crying spells when I realized I was going to finish. How can I forbid banditing when I myself didn’t register? How can I preach to you when running that race inspired me to compete in—and register for—10 more marathons to date?”

First thing: You should be banned from ever racing at the Boston Marathon again if the rules are to be followed (and the Boston Marathon is quite strict about their rules). “How can I forbid banditing?” Very easily, by acknowledging you did something wrong instead of attempting to justify your rule-breaking by saying it “inspired” you. It’s the same mentality & excuses when others claim they do so much good for society that their rule & law breaking should be overlooked. (See also: serial rule-breaker & bandit blogger Kelly Roberts and her family/friends/followers’ comments, all those that covered up the atrocities committed by Larry Nassar for YEARS with USA Gymnastics by claiming he was an “upstanding member of society”, Mike Rossi with his blatant cheating but: “Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book… They watched their father overcome, injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.”)

Furrer: “YOU WILL be the support your registered friend needs in the last couple of miles.”

See, here’s the problem. I ran a race alongside a (registered) running friend that would run with me at every race we had together, since we were of similar fitness and paces. Both of us were going after a PR on the course. (In the end they did not PR, but I did). They had a friend next to them the whole time, and their friend kept not only the pace they needed, but would get them their gels, water, Gatorade, etc. I left them both early on because I felt great and they were fading, but why is it that someone should have that aid during a race just because they had a friend that was willing to break the rules & jump in? That isn’t fair. No, life isn’t fair, but should they be caught, their time should be DQ’d. Those are the rules. If you want to help your friend, register for the race & be there properly as a part of everyone else’s race as well.

Should a race like the NYC marathon become a popularity contest? Giving more resources to some runners on race day as opposed to others? Imagine if someone jumped into the race at every mile (or multiple friends at one point) for certain runners. The whole point of racing is to race who shows up. What makes one runner more special than other runners on race day that have friends that they should have this extra advantage? At the end of the day, it’s YOU that has to continue moving and cross the finish line. This is why the non-elite start women at the Boston Marathon 2018 were not initially awarded any prize money – they were not in the elite race. Not because of some archaic anti-female rules (which some “feminist” bloggers tried to misrepresent it as) but because they simply were not in that specific race. All of the racers competing for the elite purses should be in the same race head to head or else the opportunity to match surges & tactical moves is null and void. And no matter your goal, whether or not you’re running it for fun, just to complete it, or a time, every person on that road has an impact on YOU. Imagine if someone jumped into the race and ran alongside the elite & sub-elite athletes as a bandit. They should be caught, disqualified, and banned from the race immediately. Why should it be any different for those at the middle or back-of-the-pack? You know, the group of runners (run/walkers, walkers, those that go forward, whomever they may be) that are always requesting equal treatment similar to those that are faster?

Integrity is greater than money. Watching many social media influencers with no knowledge or respect for the sport continue to peddle incorrect information about the proper ways to respect the sport and its rules is insulting to all legitimately honest runners. Encouraging the poor choices of an author that shows no remorse for breaking the rules is no better.

If you don’t like the rules, change them. Nick Symmonds (2x Olympian, World silver medalist, 6x 800m USA national champion) said this regarding following USATF rules: “Now you can disagree with the rule… Whether you think it’s fair or unfair is irrelevant. It’s black & white. It’s in there and I’m going to follow those rules.” This is what a REAL elite #ProAthlete with integrity has to say about following rules and qualifying for races.

The lack of professionalism & integrity of this specific article by RW isn’t lost in the series of tweets by “Runner-In-Chief” Jeff Dengate engaging with many readers that were upset by the article since it advocated breaking the rules for the reasons outlined above. His responses are nothing short of rude. I’ve demonstrated the fallacy in his logic (replace the word “bandit” with thief, cheat, murderer, rapist, doper, or adulterer) for supporting how to bandit & these were his words:

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Symmonds has also advocated against dopers in sport, stating “Dopers are still walking amongst us! Lance Armstrong is still walking around amongst us even though he’s a fraud and a cheat that stole from people. When you are a fraud and a thief you go to jail. If you are a convicted doper, you absolutely should be in jail.” Link to these quotes here.

Bandits are also frauds & thieves at the everyday level of racing. Ironically, Dengate is against dopers in sport. How he reconciles his distaste for doping but refuses to admit that banditing is also a form of cheating that should be discouraged and requires consequences in the name of #CleanSport is highly reminiscent of this hypocritical running company paying a repeat cheat but not their actual elites.

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I was asked my solution to the problem of bandits at major races that prohibit them. My answer isn’t far off from Nick’s solution for doping in sport: massive fines, lifetime bans, and jail time. Just because it isn’t doping at an elite level doesn’t make it any less wrong to do. This is my level of sport & I would like to be amongst as many morally upright runners in competition as is possible. We have enough blogger influencers that have no real respect or understanding of the sport that are misleading their following regarding the truth in running – when they are caught, they should face the consequences. Perhaps if we criminalize what isn’t right to do, more people would think twice before jumping into a race where they don’t belong. Could you imagine someone jumping on the road for the USATF 5k road championships that were held in conjunction with the Dash to the Finish 5k next to the elites & sub-elites with the intention of “just pacing a friend”? (I’m sure it happened for the non-elite race, and if you read to the Runner’s World article, Furrer elaborates on how you should do so because the race was easily sold out). Even if you were to pull bandits off the course, charge them & require a court date that could result in anything from community service to jail time, that would make some people think twice (example: London Marathon Bandit and no, I do not condone the violence of physically attacking a cheat). Community service could be required of cheats – try standing all day in the cold to hand out water for runners at a marathon. Perhaps that would induce some more respect for the sport at all levels. And if the cheat decides to skip their community service requirement? THAT could result in jail time.

Massive fines of 2-3-4-5x the entry fee for a race for anyone caught without a bib or someone else’s bib would make a runner think twice before jumping into a race where they don’t belong. If you copy a charity bib, then you’re not only performing a theft of services for the environment of the race from the race director, you’re taking money away from the charity for which the race is being run. Even worse in my opinion. Those races & organizations could choose to charge at least twice the fundraising requirement as consequence, maybe more (the charity Team For Kids requires a $2620 fundraising commitment for NYC, for example.)

If indeed the ban that you deserve for the Boston Marathon from today forward comes to fruition, Amanda, remember that Gia Alvarez, a blogger that wrongfully claimed a time that wasn’t hers to register for Boston, tried to justify her giving away a bib for Boston by saying “I did what so many of us do”. That doesn’t make it right. Just because there are so many bandits on a course doesn’t mean that they’re doing the right thing. Lifetime bans for race rule-breakers should be the norm. Unfortunately, even the current consequences of disqualification do not occur properly. If the races rules indicate that a DQ & ban is the consequence for banditing, bib-swapping, bib-purchasing, and cheating in general, these actions should be taken against all involved.

I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again – Runner’s World should retract this article by Amanda Furrer. It’s disheartening that we cannot count on professionalism and honesty even at the everyday runner’s level of sport. It’s even worse that we cannot even rely on the mainstream media publications to lead us in the right direction when it comes to running and racing. When we don’t denounce these actions of banditing & cheating as being wrong and imposing the proper consequences (DQ’s, bans, legal action) then we allow those with no respect for the sport to get away with a lack of morals and integrity. This is why I say we must Make Running Great Again – by calling out the hypocrisy & fraud of cheats & those that take away from clean sport. Pro athletes and elite level runners must speak out against doping, and those of us everyday runners with integrity that step to a line for the races, even if we aren’t elite, still deserve the respect of a race honestly run and won. I’d rather run a race with fewer runners if that means that the runners I’m running alongside with are quality runners. As in life, quality over quantity of the company you keep. To the cheats of the sport: #SorryNotSorry, you can’t run with us.

Signed,

#RunnersAgainstCheating

#MakeRunningGreatAgain

#BanTheCheats

#BanTheBandits

If you’d like to read other articles that have been written against banditing, see below:

Marathon Investigation Response to Furrer’s Article in RW

Runner’s World by Dave McGillivray, Race Director of Boston Marathon

Runner’s World Response to the Banditing of Kelly Roberts

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Published by

ayshamirza

Aysha is a sometimes writer, full-time cheerleader for #TrackNation who has an affinity for modeling on high-fashion runways in Vogue and formerly coached Olympian Kara Goucher on the art of the selfie in her spare time. Her educational background involves a serious love of science and medicine, with a dual-degree in Cell Biology & Neuroscience/Psychology, and accompanying research in Stem Cell Biology. Founder of #MuslimModelsMatter, #StrongInMyMakeup & an advocate for #RunnersAgainstCheating, Aysha believes that #StrongLooksDifferentOnEveryone & won't hesitate to remind others of this truth. She is based in NJ/NYC and currently coached by Rob DeCarlo. Her most epic run was her first marathon, NYC 2013. But her heart is rooted in racing 5ks, cross country and as a miler on the track, where she happily earned 2 NCCWMA silver medals representing the United States in the 1500m & 800m August of 2017. Current dreams include racing at the Olympic Trials exhibitions one day. Oh, and a BQ/Boston Marathon when she backs off the return to speed. You can tweet her some love and contact her with @ModelAyshaMirza.

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