It Is Never, Ever Okay to Run a Race You Didn’t Pay For
Yes. You’re still taking up space on a course that’s full of paying customers. You know how roads usually have cars on them? It costs money to close those roads for runners – the money of all the athletes around you who paid to be there.Even if I don’t cross the finish line or take a medal?
Yep. If you run any portion of the course, you’re still enjoying something that costs money for free (a.k.a. stealing). If you’d like to take in the on-course entertainment and atmosphere without paying, spectate or, better yet, volunteer.Even if I’m only pacing a friend?
Yes. Has your friend heard of pace groups? They’re one of the many amenities available to people who have paid to run the race.
But I did pay for it – I paid the guy selling the entry on Gumtree!
Race bibs aren’t like tickets to concerts or sporting events. They’re like boarding passes: The registrant’s personal information is attached to a bib. So if you need medical attention mid-race and are unresponsive, medical personnel will treat you as if you’re the Gumtree Guy: They’ll call his emergency contacts (not yours) and treat you as if you had his medical conditions (not yours). Plus, bib-swapping can screw up the awards. If you place in the wrong age or sex category because you’re not the same age or sex as the Gumtree Guy, you’ll end up with a prize you didn’t earn on top of running a race you didn’t properly register for.
What if I promise to run slowly?
No matter how slowly you’re running, you still take up space you didn’t pay to occupy. (In fact, you take it up for longer!)
But my friend paid for a bib, and now she can’t run. That bib’s just going to waste!
Taking your friend’s bib is no different than taking the Gumtree Guy’s – it’s still a bib that’s not yours.
I’d love to pay to legally transfer my friend’s bib to me but the race doesn’t offer it! So it’s the race’s fault.
No, it’s your friend’s fault. She agreed to the race’s terms when she signed up. If the race isn’t prepared to offer a service, that doesn’t give you the right to commit fraud.
Why do races cost so much, anyway? I’m going to stick it to the man and run regardless!
It takes time and manpower to create a closed, properly measured course packed with amenities and entertainment – especially in urban areas, where it’s more expensive to close the streets. Did you also “stick it to the man” by shoplifting all the swoosh-laden gear you’re sporting in your latest Insta Story?
Or the iPhone 7 you used to take said Insta Story? The people who organise the race draw their salaries, in part, from registration fees. They use that money to buy things like food and clothing, because not everyone is as comfortable with thievery as you are. Do you think the people who produce an event you clearly want to take part in deserve to be hungry and naked?
But what if the race is sold out? No one is losing any money, then. Right?
Wrong. Races count on a certain number of runners not showing up due to illness, injury, or scheduling conflicts – it keeps costs down and prevents waste. If races bought enough rolls to feed every runner who registered, they’d be even more expensive and you’d be even more fussy about paying to enter.
Hey, running has a rich history of banditing! Why is it wrong now if it wasn’t wrong in the past?
It was wrong in the past. What was more wrong in the past was that most races wouldn’t allow women to pay to enter. The women who bandited to protest this discrimination are the only permissible bandits in history. Everyone else: Pay up.
But what if the race just gives me a bib, because I’m a celebrity or something?
Okay, fine. You may run a race you didn’t pay for if – and only if – you obtained a complimentary bib, registered under your name, from the race’s organisers.
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