Boston Bandits

Ahh, the Boston Marathon. People train their whole lives to qualify and spend thousands of dollars to make the trip. It’s a running rite of passage. Even though I’ve never run Boston, my heart swells with pride when I talk about the Boston marathon. The traditions of the race, how every year it gets more competitive to qualify and sign up. However, a little part of me does wish that Boston was had a set up like Chicago, sign up on registration day with no qualification guidelines? Sure! Hmmm, not Boston though. Or how about NYC? Enter a lottery OR, if you live in the area, join a the NYRR running club & run 9 races to obtain and automatic entry. Very cool, but again not Boston.

For as prestigious and coveted the Boston Marathon is, the marathon organizers are decidedly lackadaisical about  letting unofficial runners just hop right in. It is estimated that in addition to the 20,000 qualified & charity runners (does anyone know the exact number?), as many as 2,000 runners run as “bandits”. Meaning that they line up in Hopkinton behind corral three, without numbers and run the same exact race as the rest of the field. Sure, they don’t get an official time, but they do get to experience one of the world’s best marathons without qualifying or raising money.

I personally love finding my name in race results, free t-shirts, space blankets and most importantly, BLING. Running as a bandit doesn’t exactly appeal to me personally, but for the average runner, it’s their only option to run Boston.

What is your opinion on bandit marathoners?

One huge advantage to the BAA turning a blind eye to bandit runners, is the ability to hop in, offer fresh legs and a mental boost to friends running the storied 26.2 mile course. Plus, you  get to take part in a tiny piece of the action that IS Boston. I did this back in 2007 when my good friend Katy ran the Boston Marathon for the second time. That year was absolutely awful weather it was the first year on record that the BAA actually thought about canceling the race. It also marked my first official April as a Boston resident as a working professional, so my excitement for Patriot’s Day brewed over the 4 months of Katy’s training. I woke up Monday morning to pouring rain, but that couldn’t dampen my spirits! I was so anxious to get out to Chestnut Hill that I found myself fidgeting and anxiously texting my friends about Katy’s race.

I woke up on Monday morning & I took the long ride out to Boston College from my neighborhood (that day it took almost two hours, MBTA, are you listening?!), and when I finally found Zach, we assumed Katy would be there any second according to our predictions. So we waited, anxiously scanning the crowd. And we waited…and we waited. Finally a group of men running in Elvis costume’s ran up to me and asked me to take a picture of them. I agreed and as I was focusing their camera I saw Katy and her dad in the background. Ahhh! I quickly snapped the photo and hoped in.

Katy’s first words? “I’m NEVER running a marathon EVER AGAIN” (nice work Katy, we’ve all said this, yet we keep coming back for more) Zach and I kept things light and just tried to stay encouraging.

Luckily, running past BC was a huge mental lift for Katy. We had only graduated the year before so she still knew a lot of students, and plenty of friends were out along the course.

One of the rare smiles that Katy let out during the last 5 miles of the 2007 Boston Marathon!

As the miles ticked by, we saw more and more Boston landmarks, Coolidge Corner, the Citgo Sign, Fenway Park, the Prudential Tower…then we made a right on Hereford st. At this point Katy was struggling but the sheer determination to finish was keeping her legs moving. We continued to run and took a left on Boylston St. At that point I was working in the John Hancock Tower, so I spent nearly everyday in this amazing area on the city. It was terrible weather, but on this gloomy day in April, I’ve never seen the neighborhood look so beautiful: the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Even though I had only run 5 miles, waves of emotion came over me. My friend and her dad were finishing Boston!

Katy and I still to this day look back on this fondly, it was an amazing experience as a spectator, and hopefully it helped her as a runner. This year I’m looking forward to reliving those first “semi bandit” memories by jumping in and pacing my friend Noel around mile 19.

I love the city of Boston with all of my heart, and as much as I wish I could just sign up for the Boston Marathon like any ole race, there is no way around it. Boston is Boston and someday, no matter what it takes, I will get there 😉 Until then, Good luck to everyone running on Monday!

Have you ever hoped in and run a race with a friend?


  1. says

    I’ve only done one half marathon and was too preoccupied with nerves to think about or notice bandits. I think it’s brilliant if people are allowed to jump in and out of the race to help motivate their friends – however I think only qualified runners should be allowed to cross the finish line (it’s their moment after all). Not sure what I think of bandits who have run the 26.2, I guess they should still cross the finish line because they still ran the whole thing…? Hmm…

  2. says

    I am AMAZED by how many people get away with banditing the Boston course. If I ever got shut out like so many people did this year, I would totally consider doing it.

    PS The Rocketship thought you were a total blast and is bummed about missing Foxy since we’re both confident they would get along swimmingly!

  3. says

    It really is crazy how the toughest race to get into is also the easiest to bandit. It’s all part of the allure of Boston. Someday I will run on that course. Someday…

    Meanwhile, SUPER excited to hang with the runners and cheer ’em on all weekend long!!

  4. says

    I agree – it just doesn’t make any sense! Maybe that’s their way of “making up” for the fact that they don’t have systems in place like New York or Chicago?? I can totally understand the desire to bandit Boston, though. Way back in my college days when I was young and stupid (haha) I actually considered doing it. That was before I had ever run a marathon and I didn’t know if I could ever qualify. It seems stupid to me now and I’m really glad that I never actually went through with it. Part of the allure of Boston is how difficult it is to get into, and I think just jumping into the course cheapens the whole experience. Plus, I have deeper issues with bandits anyway – I know races are expensive but most bandits (that I’ve seen anyway) aren’t just running along, using their own water, etc. They take fluid at the aid stations and I’ve even seen some take medals at the end of races….which I just don’t think is right.

    Annnyway…jumping in with a friend is a whole other story! I was able to do that one year in Boston and it was an awesome experience. Plus, when I’m running, I love it when people jump in with me for a few miles! The boost it gives you is invaluable!!

  5. says

    Don’t have a problem with either- bandit running Boston OR jumping in with a friend and I’ve done both. I know its not admirable in the blog world, but I grew up on the course and my hs track coach had us run from hopkinton to natick as part of training. I’ve never run the whole course bandit but I know several people who have and of all the people I know who have, they’ve never taken water or fuel from aid stations. I sorta think thats a myth. I don’t know, I just don’t have a problem with this! Also, of all the people I’ve known who have bandited- they usually start in the first mile, not behind the corrals. Thats pretty hard to get into!

    I’ve asked friends before if they see someone jumping in with you as “cheating.” And most people agree its the same as running with a pace group. Its not cheating and its fun to see a friendly face on course : )

  6. says

    You’re a good friend! My friend ran from mile 19-mile 25 with me at MCM and it was life-saving. I hope to return the favor to someone else one day.

  7. says

    I never knew there were so many bandits! I did know about the number of charity runners and its crazy! I mean I understand its necessary, but it stinks that many qualified runners get shut out, but just about anyone can pay their way in. For me, it wouldn’t be the same though. I worked hard to qualify and I don’t know if I would feel that pride if I were to bandit…It is a great way to raise money for some good charities though. Its a tough situation.

  8. says

    Great point about bandits – definitely doesn’t make sense about Boston! I don’t really understand why they haven’t been more strict about it, especially at the starting line. I don’t think it’s right for people to take the water/gatorade at the aid stations made for runners who paid and qualified or raised money for charity. Boston also has such packed streets on race day anyway, it doesn’t help to have those extra people who really shouldn’t be running. Jumping in with someone is totally understandable and helpful (I’m having my boyfriend jump in with me for a bit this year!)

  9. RonRuns says

    I held the rope at the corrals this year. We definitly tried to enforce the ‘Run after the official runners’ unstated rule. However, being from Chicago I was surprised by the attitiude toward the Bandits. I had to ask, ‘Can they cross the start line and the finish line?’ A Boston native said, “Sure, it is a public street and you can’t stop them.” I pity the poor Boston Bandit who tries that in Chicago and is harshly yanked off the course by officer friendly.

    I have my plan for next year. Volunteer for a start line job. After my volunteer job is done join the mass of Bandits at the back of the final wave. I will take water and gatorade along since it is such a minor cost and if I collapse I will be taking much more of the resourses than just the water. Celebrate at the post race party!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *