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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32 Responses to on bandits, tutus & being a decent human being

  1. Jenn says:

    I think the bandit issue has a lot of gray areas.

    I think it’s awful when people hop in a starting corral, run the race, and partake in medals/post race food. This is stealing, of course, but it can make it worse for the slowest runners. I helped plan a race once, and we ordered enough medals to cover all the pre-registered runners, and an additional bunch for any day-of-registrants. For big races that sell out, they probably don’t do this – there are a certain number of bibs, so there are a certain number of medals ordered. I would be REALLY upset if I was a runner, paid the entry fee, ran the race, finished in the last group of runners, and was told that they “ran out” of medals because of bandits. Same thing with the food, although I can’t imagine a race running out of bananas. If you don’t register in time/don’t make the cut off for a race, sorry, you’re out. A lot of us didn’t get into the NYC Marathon, but I don’t think we’re going to just show up at the start line anyway.

    I don’t think that having family/friends jump in for a few miles to help pace someone should count as being a bandit. If they’re going to run the entire race with you, then yes, they should register. But I read a blog post by a girl who had a friend jump in for the last 6 miles of a marathon to help her get through it. They didn’t get a medal at the end, food, or cross the finish line with her. It’s not the most moral thing to do I guess, because they’re technically “stealing” part of the experience. I really don’t really see anything wrong with it though.
    Jenn recently posted…Oh, Self…My Profile

  2. I wasn’t aware of the second bandit, she sounds awful! I wasn’t super offended by the first one with the man candy selfies. I don’t think her intent was to go viral, and that race is super hard to get into if you live in NYC. While I don’t really agree with running as a bandit, and I’m quite sure I would never do it, I find it to be a bit gray. Like the case you mentioned supporting a friend who’s struggling, I also feel if a runner doesn’t partake in any amenities they’re not REALLY hurting anyone. Especially at a race that’s sold out. I can guarantee a few runners who were registered couldn’t make it, and it probably balances out crowd wise. Now if they decide to use gels and fluids provided on course, and accept a medal at the end, well that’s just definitely wrong!
    Stacie Seidman recently posted…Thursday’s ThreadsMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Kelly Roberts didn’t bandit the NYC Half. She was legitimately registered and took the original set of selfies with the hot guys to help her get through the distance. It was cute and fun. The woman who bandited the Georgia Half, on the other hand… well, she was the piece of work.

      Agree that someone hopping in to help a struggling runner should be ok. And yes, I’m sure races to make allowances for a certain amount of flexibility in the participants, but that doesn’t make it right.
      runswithpugs recently posted…on bandits, tutus & being a decent human beingMy Profile

  3. Ruth says:

    I ran my fastest 5k with a star head bopper and a rainbow tutu clock time only no winners I expected to see a sea of tutus my mistake. I had fun, I looked good made a little girl happy. Wear one or not just don’t knock a runners attire it usually means something to that person.

  4. Ruth says:

    I’m a 12 minute mile runner, I have a hard enough time making sure my fellow runner isn’t trying to kill me. I’ve been tread on by a jogging stroller. Bandits are costing races which is passing that cost on to the runner. I also believe bandits should be sent a bill for their cost.

    • runswithpugs says:

      That’s a great idea! I’m sure most bandits sneak in and out and go about their lives quietly. In this case, the bandit bragged loudly and proudly about her actions, and I do think she should be billed.

  5. Diana says:

    The Georgia Half Bandit is a freaking idiot. Bandits in general don’t make sense to me – do they not know it’s stealing?? As for a family member or friend jumping in to run with you for a few miles, to me, that’s not a bandit. A bandit is someone who runs the race, drinks the water, takes the medal afterwards, etc… who did not pay for the race. That kind of person is a thief.

    As for tutus…. I’ve worn one. I may do so again. I have also been beaten, quite handily, by an entire manger scene (including Mary pushing baby Jesus in a stroller), so I have nothing but respect for people who dress up. They are out there getting it done! Why try to shame anyone who is being active and healthy?? (Plus, dude, did SELF even look at the picture? Her BIB says that she has cancer. Duh.)
    Diana recently posted…I’m Glad I’m Not FamousMy Profile

  6. Angie says:

    I think the Georgia bandit is definitely wrong. She knew what she was doing, and she wasn’t even using an original idea. I think she wants attention whether it is positive or negative. I think someone hopping in to run a mile or so with a registered runner isn’t terrible. I consider that support.

    As for Self, I do receive the magazine (it was part of a race entry). As soon as I read that article yesterday, I gathered all the unread Selfs I had lying around and tossed them in the recycling bin. I refuse to support a magazine that puts down other women who are running. We should be glad that people are out running and staying healthy. Who cares what they wear?! I have never run in a tutu, and I never planned on it until yesterday. I will buy a tutu from Glam Runner, and I will wear it for a 5K.
    Angie recently posted…Precious sleepMy Profile

  7. danamy says:

    I had heard these sneaky race entrants called “ghost runners.” I feel like it’s a grey area with running on a race course if it’s your usual course – obviously, not okay to steal swag or medals.

    I don’t agree with family or friends jumping onto the race track to help you keep pace. I’ve never even heard of this until now! First, I feel like while there is community to running, it’s a solo sport. I believe running to be both mental & physical – you need to have the mental strength to push yourself, take encouragement from those on the sidelines, set a pace with your fellow runners, but it should be on your own. Plus, race entrants have signed waivers of release of injury – those jumping in haven’t signed any releases & could they somehow hold the race liable for accidents? Lastly & most importantly, they are bogging up the race track by adding more runners to the course, not to mention the accidents they could cause by getting on to & off of the course. I would not want to have my pace thrown off or have to dodge a fan scrambling under the ropes. Fans should show encouragement through signs, cheering or running – on their side of the ropes.

    • runswithpugs says:

      Thank your for your perspective. I keep thinking of the few cases I’ve seen where someone has come on the course to help someone in need. It’s been at the end, and it never occurred to me to be inconvenienced. I always thought it was a nice thing, and would be far less bothered by that than someone running on a course during a race as part of their regular route. You raise some great points about liability in case of injury or emergency, though, and possibly stretching the limits of the course in certain situations. Just goes to show you that there are many ways of looking at it.

  8. I have never run in a tutu, but I would wear a tutu every single day if it was feasible. They’re just so fun and make me feel great! I have nothing new to add to either of these issues, as I have seen a lot of people tackle the topics already, but I agree that it’s not that hard to be a decent human being. However, if the negative parties don’t show remorse or offer up an insincere apology, there’s nothing we can do as a community to change their ways. We just need to move forward and show how strong we are as a running family and continue to disprove the negative Nancys in the world.
    Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom recently posted…Thinking Out Loud #3My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Sadly, I think you’re right. I don’t mind being a little extra nice to make up for all the not-so-nice people out there.

      I can’t wait to wear my tutu tomorrow. 🙂

  9. I talked about this today too – very disappointed about both parties. Shame on them.
    Kristen @ The Smith Summary recently posted…Five for FridayMy Profile

  10. Briana says:

    Nice post, Jenn. Banditing is wrong. Period. Tutus are awesome.

    Self magazine (which I have never purchased, but have browsed at the nail or hair salon), doesn’t seem like they really support female athletes if they can so easily tear someone down over an article of clothing. This will stick with them for a while… they angered a large and vocal crowd (and the people who love and support all of us every weekend!).
    Briana recently posted…Do you tutu? I do!My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      They really did ruffle feathers and their original apologies were quite hollow, in my opinion. I hope they learned a valuable lesson and make improvements for the future.

  11. jan says:

    I hadn’t heard of the bandit story but I did read about Self magazine. That’s ridiculous. When did it become okay to make fun of people??? As for the bandit issue, it was a HUGE controversy on a local runners’ club Facebook page once. The bandits really don’t see anything wrong with “just running” on the same course. ??? Obviously it is unethical and just WRONG.
    jan recently posted…Do Birthdays Make You Sad?My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I wish I knew. Even worse to make fun of people who are doing something active and healthy.

      I imagine if bandits saw something wrong with their actions, they wouldn’t do it. However, some people consider themselves above the rules. 🙁

  12. Very nicely written and pulled together! I’ve never run in a tutu, but I think they are adorable! I read the bandit story yesterday, and then read Mark Remy’s mocking response on RunnersWorld.com where he took selfies of himself in a running store stealing merchandise. It was awesome! Did you see it? http://www.runnersworld.com/fun/i-stole-stuff-from-a-running-store

    How did your Color Me Rad 5K go? Hope you had a great time!
    Debbie @ DebRuns recently posted…2008 Georgia Mararthon RecapMy Profile

  13. Lisa says:

    I do think there are grey areas wrt bandits. I’m not sure running on *part* of a course if not taking aid is such a big deal. Races typically run on public areas and they aren’t closed to everyone else.

    Most of the other deliberate banditing is frustrating to me though. The selfie bandit that you talk about is just frustrating beyond belief….

    The Self magazine thing was horrible. At least in this case (unlike the bandit runner who stands by her actions) they did try to make things right by admitting mistake and donating to her charity. But I agree, they contacted her under false pretenses, sounds deliberate to me!
    Lisa recently posted…Half Marathon Training: Good/Bad/UglyMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Frustrating is a very, very, VERY nice way of expressing your feelings on the matter,LOL!

      I don’t see how SELF’s actions were anything but deliberate. However, you’re right. They are trying to make amends, so I guess credit to them for that?
      runswithpugs recently posted…islands of adventureMy Profile

  14. Meg says:

    As far as banditing goes, I think its just wrong when they run the race as if they have registered and take goodies and etc from those who have paid for it. Those who choose to hop in and run a section of the race with someone as support though, I think that’s a great thing do to.

    As far as SELF magazine, I think they are a crappy publication anyway and it doesn’t surprise me that they would do something so catty and ridiculous. Like you said, How hard is it really to just be DECENT to people?
    Meg recently posted…Weekly Workout Recap – Handstand Push-ups!My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      While I do understand both sides of the jumping in for support coin, I really personally don’t see it as anything but sweet and helpful.

      I’m glad SELF is taking some responsibility.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Well said! I didn’t think much of the girl who took selfies with those poor unsuspecting men. I heard about the theif in Georgia(I don’t see how she can be called anything other than that) and I was upset. As a back of the pack runne who has been in races where they run out of aide by the time I get there I would be upset of someone came in and took the resources included in my registration and even worse, my medal. Her reaction(I’m ashamed to say I went to her blog and read it) was a lame rant of a selfish person. As for the Self issue, I think they’re BS. I stopped reading Self when I was 17 maybe, when I realized if I wanted real fashion I could just buy Vogue. I’ve never considered them a health or fitness magazine anyway.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Foodie Friday:Green Chocolate PuddingMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I would be super upset if I got to the end of a race and they didn’t have a medal or resources for me. I’m more middle of the pack, but it would be so hard to not be able to get the things I needed on the course if I was within the time requirements for the run. I don’t think that particular blogger learned anything from her wrongdoing, and it’s too bad. Humility and self-awareness are important qualities and I think we could all do to remember that.

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