In light of this developing story by my friend Cait, about some people who either made or bought fake bibs for Monday’s Boston Marathon, I have a confession to make.
In 2010, I bandited about three miles of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon. I have been deeply ashamed about it ever since, especially when I declare how awful banditing is and how bandits deserve to face consequences.
(For those who don’t know: Banditing is the act of running a race without paying for it. For a more in-depth look at it, by repentant former bandit Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me‘s Peter Sagal, click here.)
Here is how it went down: I was in Philly Saturday night visiting a couple friends. I knew I had to run 18 miles Sunday morning, but I didn’t want to commit to the race, because I knew that would require me being up and about by a certain time.
(We ended up staying out until the bars closed at 2, then getting some pizza, so being at the crowded start line a few hours later in Full Hangover Mode would not have been ideal.)
I still woke up pretty early — 8 a.m. I think — and decided to head out despite not feeling so hot. (I was so young and spry, then!) I noticed the race going on and thought, “Hmm. I could probably hop in and run on the course, and no one would say anything.”
So I did, and no one did say anything.
However, I immediately felt wracked with guilt. My eyes darted to and fro, fearful that someone would come charging out of the crowd of spectators to drag bib-less me off the course.
“But I brought my own fuel and water,” I tried to reason. “I’m not using the course porta-potties. I’m not using the resources the runners paid for.”
But on some level, I knew I was. The runners paid for the course to be closed to traffic, and for the right to take up space on said roads. I didn’t. I was stealing. I was wrong.
So, at Kelly Drive, I hopped off the road and onto the riverside path that is always open to the public without traffic. And that’s where I did the rest of my long run. I haven’t set foot near a race I haven’t paid for — unless it’s to spectate or to volunteer — since.
I’d like to make this my official public apology for the three miles of half-marathon that I stole. I don’t know what my penance should be (three Hail Marys and one mile-23 water-stop volunteer assignment?), but I can promise that it’ll never happen again.