Below is a response to this post: http://turtleboysports.com/2014/04/25/idiot-deadspin-blogger-jon-gugala-sends-lynch-mob-after-4-boston-college-students-for-running-boston-marathon-as-bandits/ . I figure the guy who wrote the above post touched on all of the arguments I’ve heard that are pro-bandit, and being anti-bandit myself, and knowing personally the woman who had her bib stolen, I wanted to respond. I’m not outraged what these people did. I was outraged at what happened last year. I’m just disappointed. And I’m slightly annoyed with all of the people weighing in from across the internet who have never run a race but definitely have an opinion on this matter, about which they know nothing. That being said, I’m genuinely interested in hearing more arguments for/against bandits, unlike the author of the turtleboy post, who has refused to approve my comment on his site so far (I tried to post this response earlier this morning and since then, other comments have been approved but not mine). So much for him wanting to hear more and “keep the conversation going.”
I want to start by saying that just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it an acceptable practice. Yes, bandits have been part of Boston for a long time, but that doesn’t make it ok. They use resources paid for by the registered runners and pose a potential problem for the medical staff charged with caring for them, should they need care. I don’t know anything about Gugala’s or Deadspin’s journalism skills or standards, so I’ll try to avoid touching on those subjects.
Saying that simply because no one was hurt or denied a medal (or other resources along the way), no offense really took place is completely missing the point. You’re right that the bandits did not directly take anything from anyone else, as there were enough medals and food and water for everyone. It’s not about the physical resource use. It’s about disrespect for the thousands of people who train their asses off on a yearly basis to qualify for Boston. And you know what? Some never get in. That’s life. It’s not fair. Yes, I’m almost positive that being former members of the BC xc/track team means that these bandits could have easily qualified. But they chose not to do so by the rules. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I have the right to do it. The qualification/registration rules are in place for a reason. The bandits didn’t follow them. They didn’t run a qualifying race and didn’t register, so why is it ok for them to run?
“Newsflash Kara, these four people worked just as hard as you did to get into Boston too. They didn’t take away anything from you or your friends by running.”
The first sentence may or may not be true. You don’t know so don’t state it as fact. The bandits’ participation undermines the work that everyone else in the field did to get in to the race. You may tell me to get down off my soap box, but that’s what people are bothered by. Is anyone really hurt by these people showing up in her photos or getting a finisher’s medal and a cup of Gatorade along the way? No. (And if they are, they too are missing the point) It’s the spirit of the event that’s been violated. Everyone (well almost everyone – not these 4 or any other bandits) who gets to the start line at Boston trained and registered and paid, or raised money according to the rules. Thousands of people prove annually that it’s not that hard to do these things, so why should bandits get a pass? I’m speaking of all bandits, not just these 4, to be clear.
Was there room for them on the road? Sure. Could they have run on the sidewalk? Sure. But again, that’s completely beside the point. It’s about what the Boston Marathon (more so than other majors I dare say) means to the people running it. As I said before, a lot of people work really, really hard to qualify. Some will never. But that doesn’t make it all right for them to show up and run illegally. They’re subject to the same rules as everyone else and by choosing to ignore them, they’re undermining the whole principle of the event. Do you care if someone steals fruit from the grocery store you shop in? Probably not because it doesn’t affect you. But it does affect the store and its ability to operate. And ultimately, if enough people steal enough fruit, the store might go out of business. And then no one can buy or steal anymore and EVERYBODY loses because of a few who considered themselves above the rules.
“Newsflash: all four of these people beat you after starting behind you. They deserved to be there. You’re a carpetbagger from North Carolina. This race belongs to them, not to you Dixie raiders like you.”
Newsflash: How do you know who they beat since their times aren’t in the results? (I know that their times aren’t in the results because there aren’t results for 4 people with bib #14285) That aside, they did not deserve to be there. AGAIN: they didn’t run a qualifying race. They didn’t pay the entry fee. They didn’t raise money for an approved charity. It’s not about simply being faster than Kara. In most cases, there is always someone faster than you and me. But just because they’re faster doesn’t mean they have a right to be in the race. They are subject to the same rules as everyone else.
I’m not going to touch your Deadspin-related comments since I don’t know anything about journalism. But herein lies a point – don’t go preaching about something you don’t know anything about. Have you ever put on a race? Do you know any race directors? Did you bother to call and ask them why bandits are a problem? It doesn’t seem like it. Before you defend the bandits, you should try to see both sides of the argument.
“Also apparently a “bastard” according to this: Bobbi Gibb, Katherine Switzer, Sara Mae Berman, and any woman who ran the race pre 1971.”
I’ll readily admit that in breaking the gender barrier 40+ years ago, banditting was the way to go. But that’s not the case today. The people today aren’t doing it to break through the gender barrier, they’re doing it because they couldn’t didn’t get into the race properly. Too bad. Life isn’t fair. We don’t all get what we want.
“They didn’t sign up because they were not aware of this disease until a couple months ago – long after the deadline had passed for signing up for the race.”
That’s very unfortunate. I commend these kids for raising money for charity. I don’t think they they’re bad people for doing what they did. Great people make bad choices all the time. We’re humans. We make mistakes. Their cause sounds like a one that could certainly use more money, but Boston has rules. And while you may not like the charities the race chooses to approve, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re on the approved list for some reason or another (I’m not pretending to know how that approval process works, nor am I defending the charities’ executive pay structure). These bandits didn’t follow those rules either. The right thing to do would have been to donate the money to charity anyways, and then work to get the charity on the approved list for next year. Simply saying “Oh, they were raising money for charity so it’s ok” doesn’t make it ok. Yes, it’s a shame they found out too late. But if the cause means a lot to them, couldn’t they have just asked for money without tying it to the marathon? I recognize doing so makes it more likely that people will donate, but if you care enough about a charity, you can get people to donate by other means.
“Or how about the fact that Jon Gugala completely missed the story about Dennis Crowley, who ran as a registered runner alongside his bandit wife? They ran last year together, but since she didn’t finish because of the bombings so she didn’t have a qualifying time for this year, and banditting was her only option.”
I don’t know about missing the story, but if Dennis’ wife didn’t get to finish because of the bombings, then she should have received an entry into this year’s race, like everyone else in the same situation. But I believe Theo Mo has already pointed the reality of the situation out in the comments (his wife was banditting in 2013 as well and that’s why she didn’t receive an entry for 2014).
“Oh yea and guess what? They pay city and state taxes which went to the police, fire and other public services available that day. So they paid for the marathon simply by living here. Out of towners like you should probably pay more than Massachusetts residents.”
“Those people paid for those services whether or not these four people showed up though. They didn’t increase the cost of services, nor did they make the services less available to anyone else.”
You’re right; we registered runners did pay for those services regardless of who else showed up through our race fees. And the bandits didn’t pay for them. Luckily, the bandits didn’t have to use them otherwise they might have taken services away from registered runners. Again, you’re right. It didn’t actually happen. But just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it’s ok. It’s clear you’ve never even looked into the logistics of putting on a race. But, if even just you’d spoken to a race director about the problems bandits pose, potential medical liability being one of the biggest, you’d realize this isn’t a valid line of reasoning. Furthermore, tax dollars don’t pay for race day. Municipal authorities have to be hired specifically for closing streets and other duties (this is because they’re not benefitting society as a whole since they’re being used by a specific group). And they’re paid more for those extra duties on race day. It’s not all covered by taxes. A lot of it is paid for by race fees. So the bandits were not, in fact, paying for the services they used. And out of towners like me do pay more than Massachusetts residents. I pay for my hotel in Boston. I pay for food in Boston. Tens of thousands of people (runners, friends and families) do the same. It may not be a direct relationship, but the tourism money that comes into the city of Boston because of this race is a huge benefit to many people. But if that’s not enough and you really want to charge us more through raising the out-of-state race fee, do it. We’ll still come run the goddamn race because that’s not the point. It’s being a part of something with such history and tradition as the Boston Marathon.
“People don’t line the Marathon route to root for a bunch of carpetbaggers from North Carolina. They do it to support their friends, family, and other locals who are trying to prove that they can do something amazing for little or no reward. If it weren’t for the fact that a bunch of 20 somethings from BC could jump into this race we would begin to question why we go so out of our way to accommodate this race.”
So you’re saying that the reason Boston accommodates the marathon every year is because a bunch of 20 somethings from BC can jump in? Yes, that’s exactly it. It’s not the fact that this race is the oldest marathon in America. Or that it has more tradition and holds more prestige than any other race in the world. Or that it’s a measuring stick for all marathoners. “Have you run Boston?” has to be the most asked question of a runner as soon as someone finds out you run. And yes, people line the route to root for their friends, but they also line the route to cheer for the 30,000+ people who have trained for months and even years to run this race. For the most part, spectators don’t know who is local and who isn’t. And you know what? They don’t care. If they did, they wouldn’t have cheered for Meb or any of the other leaders as they went by. But the crowds don’t pick and choose. They cheer for everyone because EVERYONE is trying to prove that they can do something amazing for little or no reward. As a runner, I’ve had some of my highest highs come on the Boston course from the crowds. The crowds are like nothing I’ve ever experienced. They are uplifting and energizing and give you goose bumps with every roar. They couldn’t care less if the person they’re cheering for is from Boston or Addis Ababa. They only care that everyone is doing something amazing for little or no reward. So much of the meaning of this race is tied up in the spirit of it. It’s not about the medals, although the importance that people place on these is most likely due to the fact that they serve as a reminder of all of the training that went into that race and the memories from said race. It’s not to show off, it’s a personal reminder of the work you did. Those thousands hours of solitary training that most put in all come to a head on Patriot’s Day. It’s a triumph of the human spirit and everyone wants to share in it for good reason. I’ve bared my soul for this race, because at 20 miles, I’ve got nothing left. I’ve ridden the crowds from there to the finish, just as Meb did on Monday. And while everyone should have a chance to experience that (no matter how deserving), it STILL doesn’t make running as a bandit ok.