The results of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon lottery are in. New York Road Runners (NYRR) estimates that 140,000 runners applied for 45,000 starting spots. As runners are more likely to find out that they didn't get in, some might be contemplating running the race unofficially, as a few hundred runners do every year.
Running a race without registering for it is called running as a "bandit," and race directors all over America strongly discourage it. Why? Bandits are in essence stealing an entry, especially for hard-to-get bibs like the ING New York City Marathon, where bandits face the threat of ban from future New York Road Runner races if caught. NYRR even employs a volunteer team of "bandit catchers" near the finish.
USA Track and Field, the governing body of the sport, also does not look kindly on bandits.
"The term 'thief' would be more appropriate. These uncaring individuals cause numerous problems for race officials at the start, during and at the finish of a road race," USATF states in their "Road Racing Rules & Etiquette" guide.
"They fail to realize that races are for runners, those willing to pay and that most events are also for a charity or non-profit organization. Many races have to pay for the use of city or county streets and therefore, race organizers have every right to dictate who can or cannot be on these streets."
USATF does not mince words:
"Would these same individuals enter a theater or other public event without paying?"
Entry fees, or portions of them, often go to good causes if it's a charity race. And for all races, fees go toward the cost of putting on the race itself: paying for permits—as USATF points out—water stations, medals, t-shirts, post-race festivals, timing devices, road closures and all those post-race bagels and bananas runners have come to love. If you run as a bandit and take some of that water or post-race snack, you're officially stealing.
For large hard-to-get-into races, like the ING New York City Marathon, why not run for charity rather than running as a bandit? You'll pay the same entry fee as all the other runners and agree to raise a certain amount for your charity—typically $1,000 to $1,500 for half-marathons and $2,500 to $3,000 for marathons. You'll be surprised by how many people are happy to support you for supporting a good cause. Plus, you'll be generating good karma instead of bad.
To find out how you can run the 2011 ING New York City Marathon for charity, check out the marathon's official site.
So go on. Sign up for races—or run for charity if the race is sold-out—instead of running as a bandit. With the sweaty sheen of accomplishment and a bagel—that you can be proud you paid for—in hand, you'll be glad you did.
Don't be a bandit, sign up for a race here.