The Boston Marathon Bandits (and glass houses)

I love this finish line as much as the next, but...

I love this finish line as much as the next, but…

My son and his middle school friends play a game on phones called “Clash of the Clans” or something of that ilk. Someone sets up a clan, invites friends in and then they “battle” other clans. He was in a clan and his friend, a clan leader, kicked him out because he wasn’t very good (back to my restrictive screen time). My son, in turn, started his own clan and decided not to let the original leader into the new one. Not my proudest mom moment, to be sure, but a teachable one: two wrongs don’t make a right.

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen/heard about the Boston Marathon race bandits. A woman who qualified and ran the race discovered that four people had lifted her bib from an image on Instagram and used it to run the race last Monday. Wrong? Absolutely.

But again, two wrongs don’t make a right. I am pretty disheartened by the extreme and ugly outrage that has accompanied this. I’ve seen entire posts dedicated to catching the bandits, complete with their photos. I’ve seen headlines like “catch these bastards.” It reminds me of a very similar reaction a while back when Self magazine messed up with “tutu gate.” The running community villified the magazine and eventually, the editor’s head rolled. I’m not saying this was the right or wrong ending, I’m just saying that the reaction to these situations by runners has been a bit over the top.

We all live in glass houses. We’ve all made errors in our lives. Maybe we shouldn’t be spouting righteous indignation all over the Interwebs. At the end of the day, is it our role to serve as judge and jury of these folks? They have to live with their actions and I’m betting right about now, not a one of them is feeling too good about themselves. Can’t we leave it at that?

I love the running community and I’ve seen it rally for good causes. I’ve seen lots of compassion from this community. Maybe we could dig some of that out? I’d love to see the strength of this community stay on the right path and leave the judging out of the equation.


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  1. says

    I don’t like bandits either but could not believe the witch hunt that followed. Really? We’ve all done stupid things in our lives. Be the bigger person and move on – no one needs to get ugly about it.
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..26 StrongMy Profile

  2. says

    Totally with you on this – I find bandit-ing ‘morally annoying’, but certain not worth hunting people down and the sort of outrage we see.

    For me it is always always a 3-step process as I tell my kids: (1) did something happen that should bother you, (2) is your basic reaction aligned with the offense (i.e. annoyance, anger, etc), and (3) is your response proportional to the offense?

    And with these internet things, while (1) is generally satisfied, (2) seems to always jump to outrage and (3) is largely out of control.

    For those who are all upset, here is a ‘Pro Tip’: if a casual listener cannot distinguish if you are talking about someone who bandit-ed a race or the marathon bombers … you might just be reacting out of proportion … :)
    Michael Anderson recently posted..Five Things Friday – Random Fun Weekend Thoughts!My Profile

  3. says

    You are right about that. We all make errors in judgement and we have to live with the consequences. It boils down to can they live with themselves and will they do it again? Some people can and some people can’t. It is not our place to pass judgement even if it’s something we couldn’t imagine ourselves doing.
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  4. says

    I’m glad you posted this because YES, it’s true. People love to jump on bandwagons and feel a part of something…even if it’s something vicious. I know I have to feel REALLY strongly about something to blab about it on my site or the web in general. Bandits happen and I don’t think the runners set out to disrespect the marathon – they just wanted to be part of it. Not the right way to do it but, whatever.
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown: With A Little Help From My FriendsMy Profile

  5. says

    Yeah, I am right there with you actually. It is not right to do so, but they should not be treated like they committed a serious crime….they are punishing themselves enough by the mental torture of those last 6 miles!!!! As an elite, I rarely, if ever pay for my entry, so I feel as though in some ways I do not pay my contributing part to races, but I know I pay through my results and publicity, but I still feel bad sometimes.

    Glad you put a post about this, and interesting to see what others think!
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  6. says

    YES! It feels a lot like bullying. I know people are outraged when something we love so much is offended by things like tutu-gate and banditing, but to me it has all felt very overboard, social media makes it easy to attack someone we don’t know and there are ways of speaking out without attacking so harshly. I was thinking about this yesterday too
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  7. says

    Too funny, D and I generally don’t get seriously worked up about much so we often wonder why everyone else gets overly angry about lots of things. I think in this case maybe it was just so much heightened emotion about the event or all those who qualified and didn’t get to run (if I were in that boat, i’d be ticked…but probably not enough to do much else about it!)
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  8. says

    I personally was just amazed at the idea because I’m just not that clever! I wouldn’t do it but then again, would haven’t been clever enough to think up the idea. I think in the world of the internet, nothing goes unseen…and the backlash can be ferocious that’s for sure.
    Robin recently posted..Boston Marathon #2 – Race ReportMy Profile

  9. says

    I think the reason I (and perhaps others) are more offended is because any one of them could have come right out and said “Hey, it was me. I meant no harm and tried to get into the race but didn’t”. Instead, it took a witch hunt to identify them. To make matters worse, some of them seem to be basking in the notoriety. If they were humble and moved on from the issue, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. People get into trouble when they deny, deny, deny and only to be exposed later on. I don’t like all the hate being spewed, but just like we expect more civil behavior from those writing about the issue, we should also expect it from the bandits. The more important lesson to be learned is for race directors – if they are going have security at big races, they need to do better
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  10. says

    Honestly I have mixed feeling about it. I have had friends join me for all or part of a race as a “bandit” to pace me/keep me company. But they weren’t really racing and didn’t get an official time, etc. I saw no harm in that.

    So I am wondering if this is all that different? I realize Boston is obviously a different beast, b/c you have to qualify. etc. But I don’t know, I am not so sure its that big a deal. Just my opinion though
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  11. says

    I think a lot of people were outraged for a number of reasons. First of all, Boston is exclusive in that you have to qualify for an entry. There are a lot of us who will never run fast enough to qualify, and the idea that people stole a bib, ran the race, and collected a medal really bothered a lot of people. Another reason is that in general, cheating seems to have become more acceptable in our society. My kids tell me students in their schools cheat on tests and papers all the time. The news is full of stories of corporations and executives stealing money. Another reason for the outrage is that this was the year after the marathon bombings, and these people pretty much ignored all the emphasis on increased security and seemingly flaunted it, all for their own personal achievement.

    I’m not saying the “witch hunt” for the bandits was ok, but I can understand the anger behind it. I actually wrote a post ( on the scandal before the whole story was out…but I took a humorous look at famous cheaters in running.
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  12. says

    Yes and yes! I see both sides but it’s been thrown a bit out of hand (in my opinion). Like you referenced, the ‘tutu gate’. I was thrown a bit by how crazy that got. People were saying, ‘Shame on you Self for bullying….’ and yet here was the running community doing the SAME exact thing…bullying. I appreciate the passion of runners and the community that helps back someone up, but I fear finding myself on the ‘wrong’ side of that fight one of these days. That would be scary.
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  13. says

    Oh I couldn’t agree more. I can see both sides for sure but some people have just been downright nasty. We wouldn’t do that with someone we love. Yes, we’d want them to have consequences and learn from their actions but we would go about things in a loving way…as we should with most things. This bandit situation IMO is wrong. period. They didn’t act out of honor or respect. They stole something. Cheated. Cheapened their experience. Took something that wasn’t theirs…they didn’t earn it. But they also didn’t commit an act of terrorism or go out to do this with the intention of being “bad” or hurting someone… they made a very poor decision. My bets are that they’ve already learned their lesson, been humiliated, feel ashamed…looks like they are part of the running community so this makes it even more embarrassing for them. Let’s remember love and grace people. This could just have easily been one of us making poor judgement. I think we’ve all learned together from this.
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  14. says

    I’m never up for a witch hunt, but these people do need to be held accountable (charged with theft, maybe?). As races get more expensive and harder to get into, more people will be tempted to do this and it really does take away from the generally positive running community. And, the Foursquare guy just added insult to injury with his non-apology that we just don’t get how important it was for them to run this one together.
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  15. says

    I fully understand the outrage. And I fully understand the first, enraged impulse to track down and punish these people. That doesn’t make it right. That makes it an internet vigilante mob. (They’ll never do it again, that’s for sure.)

    I do think one should respect the race, though. And in particular this race, this year, and what it signifies. To steal someone else’s number is not tradition, it’s theft. I wouldn’t run Boston if I hadn’t qualified/ raised money the proper way (and I don’t mind if others do it, but I personally would even have qualms about doing it as a charity runner). But yes, time to let it go and take the high road.
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  16. says

    Reminds me of a mob mentality. It’s so easy nowadays with social media to show our disapproval and make nasty comments because you can do so basically anonymously. We should be more careful with doling out judgement and be informed of the whole situation before making comments.
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  17. says

    I hadn’t thought about it too much (too busy, I guess, I saw one post about the Boston Bandits and didn’t realize there was a sh*t storm going on). You are absolutely right and saying it so simply, two wrongs don’t make a right, really makes it utterly clear. Everybody, not just runners by any means, seems to be very judgmental these days. You’d think most people would have enough to worry about their own lives, not judging everyone elses.
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  18. says

    Oh no, I hadn’t heard about that! That’s so unethical especially this race and this year. Any other race it would have been no biggie. Hopefully people get over it quickly.
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  19. Holly says

    The whole bandit thing is really annoying but posting their faces all over the place is extreme. I can’t support that. I keep expecting them to show up on the Today show to explain themselves. Then I remember that not everyone is a runner who cares about people printing bibs and running a race.

  20. says

    Yes and yes. It wasn’t right that the bandits ran, but it happens. Move on and keep running, racing, and keep Boston a positive race.
    The year we ran Disney we bought the photos. There were more of a woman than of Kelly, as she had his bib number but in a different colour (must have been from a previous year). It wasn’t a big deal, although I do see how they cost races more money, can be a danger if something happens to them, etc.
    And glass houses? There are a lot of blogs I read where a blogger has someone jump into a race with them at a certain point to help pace them.
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  21. says

    Love this! I agree witch hunting is a bit much…but I also read something interesting about the potential costs out there to keep this from spiraling out of control and it was sad to think that other might have to pay the price. Ultimately, I’m glad to see something in this post that makes me feel so much better – because I was the Clash of the Clans basher in this house and *gasp* restricted screen time really killed that one fast leaving me the bad guy as well!
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  22. says

    Bandits really irk me and even more specifically for races such as Boston which may take me years to qualify for – or others which are lottery and impossible to get into. That stated – I find it a little deplorable what the media has done and blasting their pictures everywhere – not what our running community is about. Great thoughts and post – thank you!
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  23. says

    I hadn’t heard about the witch hunt even though I’d heard about the banditing. Honestly don’t people have enough to do in their own lives that things like this become a major problem for them which they feel they must act on. I was quite appalled that people had gone to such lengths to run in a race that they hadn’t qualified for but I’ve got bigger things in my life than to take anything further.
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  24. says

    I had the same thoughts when I read the comments on the post about that. I was disheartened to see runners demanding that the bandits be publicly shamed, banned from events, and/or prosecuted. It all seemed a bit much for a race, a big and important race, but still, a race. I hope the bandits were made aware of their error and have learned something from all of this, but I don’t blame them for not coming forward. I wouldn’t after reading people’s reactions online. Thanks for being a voice of reason, I appreciated reading this!

  25. says

    I only heard about the bandit story briefly – have any of the 4 made a statement? If they said they were sorry, it should be end of story. I’ve only bandited one minor race one time, and I will never bandit again no matter the size of the race. These 4 bandited the most important race in the world – there should be consequences for it.

    And this is a warning not to post images like that to instagram since it is public lol.
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  26. says

    Found your blog from the link at I definitely think this disproportionate outrage is becoming more common, largely thanks to more connectedness/media sharing. I have a friend who is the chief of a nearby town’s police department. One of his officers was in the national news very recently, shown tripping a high-school aged girl as she and others “stormed” the field after sports event. It was clear he shouldn’t have done it, but he wanted to prevent the mass on the field from growing and possibly becoming dangerous. Still a mistake, but not earth-shattering. The officer has received tons of hate mail including a death threat from Denmark. No joke. A death threat. For tripping a girl. A girl who sustained no injuries. I was floored.
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  27. says

    We are in a media/social age where things get ratcheted up very quickly (but their lifespan is considerably shorter). Personally, I am OK with outing the bandits because they cheated. As for their punishment, I would suggest banning them permanently from the race. I think the reaction of others may be overblown, but from a security standpoint this is a big deal. The wrong people now have another idea on how to infiltrate a big city race and create havoc.
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  28. says

    Ugh. Adults should not be acting like this. I don’t know how they can sleep at night, being sneaky and deceptive. As for Clash of Clans, my 9yo son plays it on my phone. I’ll be on the job, and a notification will pop up that his village has been raided. sheesh.
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  30. says

    Just saw this post and I totally agree with you! I couldn’t believe the SELF editor actually stepped down because of it. It was stupid & unwise but the hate and disgust was way over the top. I agree that the bandits were wrong too but as you say, they are human beings and everyone deserves a little grace. I knew something was nagging at me about all of this and you hit the nail on the head.
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  31. says

    While I don’t think all of the reactions were appropriate…why should people be quiet about it?
    Why not say something?
    Why not have an opinion?
    Why not use our platforms for a cause we feel just?

    And if we’re going to talk about judging…you seem to be judging others’ reactions…right? And writing a post about it for everyone to see. 😉

    I’d like to also point out I never shared anything about this personally via social media or my blog…but I feel the need to stand up for the sake of everyone who has an opinion and shares it. Telling people to be quiet is not the answer. Maybe telling people to not go crazy like sending death threats would be a little more on par in my opinion. :)
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  32. says

    I’m of many thoughts on this but they tend to all lead me to the same place. Of course counterfeiting a bib is wrong. And no, it’s not the same as banditing the way Boston marathon had historically tolerated (unmarked runners at the end of the pack or running certain legs of the race). However, I think that in the grand scheme of things it’s not heinous act anywhere near akin to terrorism. I have been surprised by the lack of empathy I’ve found in this regard from runners who I have otherwise found to be supportive and nurturing people. I also find it interesting that many of the people who are so vocal about the Boston Marathon scofflaws don’t have the same regard for regulations on the rare occasions they may take over another runner’s non-transferable bib …. despite the fine print.

    In the end, I guess I see it simply: the runners with official bibs were officially recorded and their times verified. You did it! *yells* Bravo! The bandits weren’t recorded. They ran for themselves only. *whispers* Bravo.