Here’s Why You Should Never Run A Race Without Registering

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Don’t Ever Bandit a Race Orbon Alija - Getty Images

We’re in the midst of a running boom, which is a wonderful thing. It means there’s droves of beginner runners discovering the sport for the first time, learning about things like pace, splits, and track etiquette. Now seems like as good a time as any to educate new and seasoned runners alike on an important matter: why you should never run a race that you didn’t register for.

On the surface, it may seem like a harmless thing to do, but it’s not.

This week, an influencer went viral after she shared on social media that she took part in the NYCRUNS Brooklyn Half Marathon without signing up for the race. Runners were quick to chastise her actions and explain why it was wrong to join a race in an unofficial capacity.

The race chimed in as well.

“We had a record number of runners at Sunday’s NYCRUNS Brooklyn Half Marathon with over 21,000 official finishers,” NYCRUNS said in a statement provided to Runner’s World.

“Our top priority is the safety and well-being of every one of those runners, and the bib that every runner wears is their lifeline if a medical issue arises on the course,” the statement continued. “It’s dangerous to run in a race without a bib, and it’s also not fair to the thousands of runners who are.”

The woman later apologized and said she didn’t know she was doing something beyond the pale. So why shouldn’t you do what she did?

Here’s the issue with “banditing”—jumping in and running all or some of a race without a race number or bib, or swapping/forging a bib.

It’s a safety risk.

As NYCRUNS noted in their statement, banditing can compromise the health of yourself and others. If first aid is required, medical workers will have no context for a bandit runner, since they don’t have their name, emergency contact, or medical information recorded.

Race banditing takes resources away from the registered runners.

Every unaccounted for person on the course means an extra person in line for the toilet, another person taking water and electrolytes at the aid stations, and even potentially walking away with someone else’s finisher medal.

Race directors plan everything—including volunteer and police presence—according to the number of registered participants, and showing up uninvited means other runners will have to go without certain things thanks to you. It can also lead to overcrowding and injuries, particularly at the start and finish.

Sneaking your way into a race skews the results.

Yes, even if you plan on taking it slow, you may screw up the age group results, especially if you’ve decided to race under someone else’s name by wearing another runner’s bib.

Banditing threatens the very existence of the race itself.

Permits for street closures are sometimes based on participant numbers, so the organizers could lose the permission to hold future events if the numbers are off. It’s expensive to host even a small road race, and entry fees pay for every aspect of the race experience. Sometimes a portion of the fee is donated to a charity or cause associated with the event, too.

It’s just not worth it.

The wonderful thing about this sport is that there is always another race. Whatever your reasoning—if you didn’t qualify or register in time, or if you couldn’t afford the entry fee, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to race anyway. Try again next time, sign up for a charity spot, find another race, volunteer, or just cheer on the participants who officially registered.

If you’ve read this article, now you have no excuse. Bandit at your own moral peril.

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