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Confessions of a Thanksgiving Day Joggling Bandit

Today, I joggled the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot sponsored by Fleet Feet. I’ve done this race a number of times, but this one was a first. The first time I ever did a race as a “bandit”.

What’s a bandit?

A bandit is a person who lines up with everyone, runs the race, and finishes. The only difference is that they don’t pay the registration fee, don’t get the shirt and don’t get an official time. I’m actually opposed to being a bandit, but I decided to try it out. I had gotten to the race early and was perfectly willing to pay my money. Why should I be penalized because the race organizers didn’t plan well enough?

5 Tips for Running or Joggling Bandits

Here are a few rules I’ll try to follow if I’m ever in this situation again.

1. Only bandit if you can’t register. If you just choose not to pay your registration fee, that seems wrong. If you can’t pay your fee because they are not collecting, that doesn’t seem as bad.

2. Only bandit on public courses. Most races are on public streets and running paths (at least in Chicago). Race organizers really have no right to prevent you from running on this public land so as long as you pay taxes, it should be ok to run. Granted, the race organizers have to pay money to clear streets and hire police to ensure they stay that way, but hey, it is still public property. On a private track, or closed field, don’t be a bandit.

3. Take minimal race food. The food is for runners who have paid their money so you really shouldn’t take any. However, there is a ton of food that just gets thrown away. This seems like a waste. If you are a bandit it’s alright to take a little food. Just don’t take as much as you would’ve if you actually paid. For the record, I didn’t take any food from the race today. I would make the rule “don’t take any food” but that seems a bit harsh. Especially if they would’ve just taken my money like they could have!

4. Consider dropping out. The finish line should be for paying runners. If you’re running the race because you like to run with crowds, there should be no problem with you dropping out before the final stretch. This morning, I joggled all the way through the finish line. I felt a little weird about it, but I had gone that far. I didn’t see it making much difference if I crossed the finish line. Fortunately, they didn’t mention my name. You don’t want to take away attention from someone who actually paid to race.

5. Quickly leave when you’re done. Most times I’ll linger after a race. I’ll talk to other runners, swap stories about the race, and generally mingle. As a bandit, you should leave as soon as possible. This helps reduce the chance that you’ll go grab some race food or otherwise intrude on the race experience of paying racers. You didn’t pay, you shouldn’t take advantage of the organized race. Of course, if you’re there with other friends and you would’ve paid, this advice feels a bit harsh.

6. BONUS TIP – Don’t Cheat! There was a point during today’s race when runners passed each other. It would’ve been simple to cut off about a mile from the race just by turning around early. And since your time isn’t official what difference would it make? It makes a huge difference!! Other runners don’t know that you are a bandit. If someone sees a joggler cutting the race short, you’ll just give joggling a bad name. Dropping out is fine. Cheating is not.

I don’t recommend being a race bandit, but sometimes it makes sense. If you’re going to be a joggling bandit at least try to minimize the amount of advantage you take of the people who organized and paid for the event.

Race Result

The race this morning was great. There were thousands of people and the organizers did an excellent job (except for a 10 minute late start). There were a number of people along the route watching the runners. This is always good for joggling. I finished in 38:09. Not bad. I suspect I could’ve gone faster except…

1. Race was crowded
2. I started way in the back
3. I’m out of shape
4. I stayed out way too late last night

Excuses, I know. But I might have been able to shave 2 minutes off that time. Still not a PR but you can’t always PR every race. Maybe in a future post I’ll write some tips about how to run a race in which you don’t plan to PR.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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