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?