As most of you probably know, the running of the Boston Marathon is pretty much the highest honor most non-professional runners can have. With qualifying times starting at 3 hours 10 minutes for men, 3 hours 40 minutes for women, the trend of back-of-the-pack runners (like myself) are ineligible to compete in Boston. Hardcore runners have to prove their eligibility by completing another marathon within the qualifying time for their age group, within the past year and a half. Because of these high standards, running this race becomes a goal for those fast enough not to have their goal be to just finish (like myself!).
I have mad respect for these runners. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is something I will never be capable of. And that's fine with me- I actually really enjoy having an interest in which I have no desire or pressure to excel at (beyond minor time and race location goals). It also adds a huge awe factor to all those who do have the desire to excel at marathon running, at least as far as finishing times go.
I may not be able to qualify for Boston, but I could still run it. Every year thousands of unregistered runners jump into the course as "bandits." These are the slower runners who could not qualify but want to run this fabled race.
Though they are cheered on as much as registered runners, sneered at by purists and nearly ignored nowadays by race officials, Boston’s “bandits”—or unregistered runners—are as much a part of Boston Marathon history as John Kelley or the Kenyans.
There may be more bandits this year than usual, according to Dave McGillivray, the Boston Marathon race director. In late January, race directors cut off registration when they reached 25,000—several weeks earlier than in most years.
“People are saying all those qualifiers who didn't get in will increase the number of bandits,” McGillivray said. “My sense is that although they're disappointed they didn't get in, they have their own standards and they don't want to run this race that way.”
McGillivray “bandited” Boston himself in his teens and is less adamant about pulling bandits from the starting line on race morning in Hopkinton.
“The BAA’s position is that we certainly don't encourage unofficial runners from running,” McGillivray said, “but we recognize that it's part of the tradition that a certain number of them will show up.”
“Right or wrong,” McGillivray said, “we factor them in, too. When we order port-a-johns and water, we actually say there’s 29,000 in the race, not 26,000”—the number of registered runners. “It's a conundrum for sure. On the one hand you feel like you’re accommodating them, but it’s safety too.”
Read the whole thing for more info on how the bandit movement got started.
Bandits are also know to dress up in crazy costumes, a trend that has spread to most major marathons these days. I actually have a friend who ran Boston many years ago with his tuba! Crazy! It would take a lot for me to consider running Boston as a bandit. The training process is so long and arduous, that I honestly don't know if I could run one with out the promise of a finisher's medal!
Good luck runners!