on bandits, tutus & being a decent human being

By now, I think we’ve all heard about the disappointing stories that have come from the running community this week.

First up? The Georgia Half Marathon bandit, who not only thought it would be awesome to copy Kelly Robert’s marathon selfie idea, but also thought she would be better served spending the $100 registration fee on “brunch and booze.” Of course, she later edited to state that woe is her, she tried to get her hands on a bib, but could not do so, hence, alas, sigh, causing her to just leap into a corral and run a race for which she did not pay.

To add insult to injury, Miss Georgia Half Bandit documented her shenanigans on her blog (not linking) via a series of 14 selfies. In the captions of the photos, she made disparaging comments about fellow (registered) runners and law enforcement officers and attempted to crack a rape joke.

We all make mistakes, right?

The running community responded, calling her out on her bad behavior. Rather than taking a moment to reflect, realizing that not only had she done something dishonest by taking resources and aid to which she was not entitled, but also that she had acted pretty immature and horribly about the whole thing, and issuing a mea culpa, Miss Georgia Half Bandit stood by her actions. She blew off constructive criticism, labeling dissenters as trolls and thanking everyone, rather sarcastically, for her page views. She went on to say that she had paid for the same event in the past, and that everyone needed something better to do with their time. No remorse, no shame, no humility. Rumor has it that she has legitimately registered for next year’s event, but that doesn’t do much for her actions this year.

In the wake of this, I’ve been reading several pieces about banditing races, something I wouldn’t have conceived of doing. Interestingly enough, banditing doesn’t just cover people who take an illegal position in a corral, run a race, use course resources and partake of a medal and post-race swag and treats. It covers people who pop in to a race after the start line and pop out again  before the finish when the race covers an area on their pre-planned routes. It can also cover family members and friends who jump in to help pace a struggling runner in those final miles. I’m not so sure I agree with the last category, because what’s more awesome than getting that last surge of support when you may be hurting or running on fumes? I never really thought of that as “theft” but it’s something to consider in the future.

Probably even more upsetting was the case of Monika Allen and SELF Magazine. At SELF’s request, Monika sent this lovely photo of her and a friend running the LA Marathon. In adorable superhero running costumes. While Monika was fighting brain cancer.

Of course, like any reasonable person, Monika thought that SELF Magazine would be using the photo to illustrate triumph in the face of all odds, and maybe to also highlight Glam Runner*, the company Monika started with her friend “to bring more fun and GLAM to running while raising money for Girls on the Run of San Diego.” Needless to say, she was shocked and hurt to see that her picture had made SELF’s BS meter feature, where runners in tutus are mocked and put down.

After hours of being slammed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, phone calls, and probably carrier pigeon. SELF Magazine issued a rather insincere public apology.

I’m not really sure how Ms. Danzinger can call this “inadvertent insensitivity.” Rather than buying stock images or creating a quick photo shoot to capture what SELF deems to be an abhorrent trend of running in tutus, SELF reached out to Monika for permission to use her photo for derogatory ends. Sounds rather deliberate to me.

I don’t have a subscription to SELF (nor have I bought an issue any time in my memory), and I certainly have no intention of starting, especially in light of that non-apology. I’m appalled that a magazine that touts itself as promoting healthy lifestyles for women would dare to mock anyone doing something as kick-ass as running a marathon (with or without cancer), no matter what he or she is wearing. Additionally, I think tutus are a lot of fun. I have only worn them twice, for awareness runs, and not only have I felt great, but I’ve gotten lots of compliments, high-fives and questions about them. I will continue to do so, regardless of what anyone thinks.

Which brings me to my point of the week. How hard is it to be a decent human being? I mean, we all screw up and we all make bad choices. We are, after all, human. However, it takes nothing to be kind to others. To not take things that don’t belong to us. To treat others with respect and goodwill. To be supportive and encouraging to those in need.

The bright spots in all of this disappointment are the fast and furious responses to Miss Georgia Half Bandit and SELF Magazine. Members of the running community, friends, horrified casual readers… they all banded together to say, emphatically and in one voice, that these kind of behaviors will not be tolerated. I can only hope that we will all learn something from the things that happened this week.

What do you think of the race bandit issue? Are your feelings black and white or are there gray areas?

Have you ever run in a tutu? What do you think of SELF’s BS Meter?


*I have been making my own tutus, but I am planning to purchase one for an upcoming race. Glam Runner’s proceeds support Girls on the Run San Diego, which is one chapter in an incredible organization. I have several friends who are GOTR coaches in our area, and I am proud to support their cause.

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