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Out There: An Open Letter To Bandit Runners

“You’re so special. You deserve to run all the races you want for free.”

Written by: Susan Lacke

Dear Bandit,

How’d you do last weekend? You looked good and strong out there. Really, you dominated. You must be so proud of your performance.

After all, not everyone can steal and get away with it. But you, sir…you did it! I am impressed.

I’m sure you really thought being a bandit was justified. Race fees are just exorbitant these days, aren’t they? They are outrageous. Then again, why am I telling you? You’re the one who was wearing the Ironman shirt and Western States visor while running the race. You know all about expensive race fees. I bet those races just about bankrupted you, didn’t they? No way could you spare the coin to enter a small charity half marathon.

Besides, those kids that benefit from the charity are just a bunch of greedy snot-nosed punks anyway, aren’t they? No sense in paying the entry fee to help hundreds of youngsters to eat healthy, be active, or go to college when they all just want to play video games anyway.  Besides, you needed that money for that sweet new pair of Newtons (yes sir, I saw those on your feet – very swanky!) so you could PR in the (free) race.  Now that’s impressive! Those kids could learn a thing or two from you about priorities.

Even if you did want to pay, the race was sold out, anyway. Those runners who paid (fools!) certainly didn’t mind you joining their ranks. The starting chute was going to be crowded with or without you, and the roads were going to be full of runners. What’s one more? Plus, you and I both know that the race didn’t really need to pay for the barricades and police to block off the roads during the race. It’s not like runners can’t look both ways before they cross the street. If they get hit, that should be their own fault. What doesn’t kill ‘em only makes ‘em stronger. Am I right? You know I am, buddy.

And the water stations? Oh, puh-LEASE! What a joke. You weren’t really stealing from the race when you used the aid stations. Everyone knows water’s free. The gels and food were probably cheap, too. Besides, you only took two or three…at each aid station. Don’t worry about the volunteers who were working those aid stations to raise money for their school groups. They are honored to give up their Sunday morning just for the chance to hand you a cup of water. No, really…I’m sure one of those teenage girls swooned when you ran by.

And when you crossed the finish line without a bib number or timing chip…well, that was just a thing of joy and beauty! There were so many people crossing at the same time, you were able to slip through like a regular racer. You got such a nice (free) medal to commemorate the occasion. You even got a complimentary breakfast in the finisher’s tent – donated by the local mom-and-pop businesses in the community! Way to go, buddy! Free food is good food!

I bet you’re reading this with a smug smile. And if I say that being a bandit is actually stealing from a race and the people who work hard to organize it, you’ll retort with a clever “Well…then smack my bum and call me Smokey!” Oh! I can’t stop giggling! You’re so witty! “Smokey!” Hy-STER-ical! I bet everyone wishes they could be as smart as you.

You’re so special. You deserve to run all the races you want for free. Other people should pay, sure, but they’re different. They’re probably running their first half marathon, so this is special. It’s an experience for them. They’re going to go to the expo and get t-shirts and really be enthusiastic about being a part of this race. You just wanted to test your fitness this weekend and see how you compared to other people in your age group. You’re different, so the entry rules just don’t apply to you. Besides, someone as talented as you really makes the quality of the race better. Without you running, the middle of the pack would certainly have been thinner.

So thanks, Bandit, for reminding us all of how fortunate we are to be in your presence. It’s people like you who remind us of who we could be. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing…well, that’s in the eye of the beholder.



P.S. – You dropped your socks while walking to your car. Did you want them back, or were those the new-fangled disposable types I’ve never heard of before?


Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Look for her first print column in the March issue of Competitor, and follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.