In years past, bandit runners have proven themselves to be an accepted part of the Boston Marathon. This year, however, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) opted to crack down on unregistered runners as part of an effort to establish stronger security following the bombings at the 2013 Marathon. By restricting participation in a race that was already expected to include significantly higher numbers than usual, the BAA hoped to encourage a more manageable crowd. As a result, the BAA effectively barred a significant number of individuals who would traditionally have run unregistered, including the Campus School Volunteers of Boston College.
In the days following the Marathon, however, it came to light that some aspiring runners found a way around the BAA’s stricter enforcement of the rules. When registered marathoners went online to view photos of themselves from race day, some of them found that other individuals-including, according to the running blog Fittish, two former runners from the BC men’s cross country team-had fraudulently worn the bib numbers that were registered under their names.
As of now, there has been no indication that legal action will be taken against these bandit runners. The debate over whether the BAA should permit unregistered runners will likely continue for some time. Whatever the eventual outcome, the disrespectful and even hateful treatment exhibited toward this year’s bandit runners is a disturbing and unacceptable consequence. Those who opted to run with fraudulent marathon bibs have been made the victims of public embarrassment and even violent threats, in article comments and elsewhere online, by those who consider their actions unjust and selfish.
These reactions are disturbingly overzealous, not only because it is generally wrong to issue threats against individuals, but also because the participation of bandit runners in the Boston Marathon resulted in no apparent adverse effects. While the bandit runners certainly went against the BAA’s wishes to more strictly enforce its rules, the safety and organization of this year’s Marathon were largely uninterrupted. The BAA confirmed that runners with fake bibs underwent the same security measures as registered runners, and furthermore, while the BAA does base its plans for the day on the number of registered runners, there did not appear to be a shortage of water or other supplies, and the Marathon route did not seem overly congested or unsafe.
The participation of bandit runners with fake bibs resulted in only one tangible negative impact-the tainting of some registered runners’ photo packages. This hardly seems cause for the criticism and threats that have been directed at this year’s bandit runners.
In the spirit of the unity that the Boston Marathon is intended to foster, the BC student body and larger running community should recognize that there is nothing to be gained by harassing these individuals. Regardless of how one feels about the BAA’s rules, those who opted to participate in the 2014 Marathon as bandit runners ought to be treated with the basic human respect and dignity that they deserve.