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Boston officials crack down on ‘bandit runners’

In an effort to ensure safety and security at the Boston Marathon on Monday, the Boston Athletic Association will be reinforcing the rule forbidding unregistered runners, known as “bandit runners,” from participating in this year’s race.

Boston Marathon bandit runners have avoided the rules for decades. However, after the 2013 Marathon bombings, officials have increased security measures, which include banning bandit runners, prohibiting backpacks and adding security checkpoints, according to a BAA spokesperson.

“We are aware that many people want to participate in some way in this year’s Boston Marathon as a display of support, but we ask that those who are not official participants to refrain from entering the course for the safety of the runners and themselves,” BAA marathon policy stated on its website.

Jill Geer, chief public affairs officer for the USA Track and Field Association, said in a Wednesday email that she encourages people to run in the marathon by paying their fees and contributing to the costs of the event.

“USATF encourages the passion Americans have developed for road racing,” she said. “Bandit running, however, could be likened to jumping a turnstyle or sneaking into a ballgame or a movie theater. Entry fees from runners help cover logistical costs from road closures to police assistance, on-course hydration stations and race planning, as well as ‘goodies’ such as post-race food, t-shirts and other benefits.”

Bandit running groups, such as the Boston College Campus School Volunteers and the Red Snakes from the Kaji Aso Studio, run the marathon to raise funds and show support for individual causes or, as is the case for the Red Snakes, they run as bandits out of tradition.

Kate Finnegan, the administrator for the Kaji Aso Studio, has been running the Boston Marathon for over 30 years. Although Finnegan said she is upset that the Red Snakes will not be allowed to enter the marathon, she said she understands the reasoning behind the ban.

“I got stopped at mile 21 last year,” she said. “Most of the past six years I’ve been walking it, but still, it’s such an important part of my life, so it was a bit hard to let that go.”

The Red Snakes, a group of art teachers and students from the studio, have run in the marathon for four decades, Finnegan said. Running behind the registered marathon runners, the group would pass out hand-stenciled certificates to runners who were still running after the finish line had been dismantled.

“It’s a sad time because something really has changed, and part of the long history of the marathon has always been the sense of every person, the connectedness … the sense of appreciation of life,” she said. “But I do understand the difficulty that the BAA is facing with their concerns, and I do want to respect that.”

Despite the stigma of the running community against bandits, Finnegan said in the 38 marathons the group had participated in, the runners and volunteers have always treated the group with respect during the race.

“We’re not trying to interrupt the runners who are running for the time,” she said. “I’ve always been polite to all the runners, and all the runners have always been polite to me. There’s a real feeling of being together among all the runners.”

Several residents said despite the reinforcement in rules, they expect to see bandit runners participating in the marathon, just as they have every other year.

Prashant Bhattarai, 35, of Allston, said bandit running belittles the hard work and months of training of the marathon’s registered runners.

“It’s not fair because people train a whole year for the marathon,” he said. “People without registering can’t just come in. Officers need to find out the vulnerable areas where it might be easier for people to get in, but some people might get in anyways.”

Pawel Mikolajczyk, 23, of Allston, said bandit runners will run, regardless of whether or not they are forbidden from doing so.

“It would be kind of hard to block off an entire 23 miles,” she said. “People are going to take that as a challenge. It’s a rational security measure, but I don’t know if it’s going to be effective in stopping anybody from actually bandit running.”

David Lewis, 24, of Brighton, said that bandit running is not something that should be condemned, but he understands why officials want to reinforce the rule.

“Personally, last year I was going to run as a non-registered runner,” he said. “Be it good luck or bad luck, I was not able to run, but I still cheered on people who I knew were running. The forbidding of people who are not registered hasn’t played well against some people, but would they rather enjoy the event and have to suffer one or two extra security measures, or would they rather risk somebody who is willing to or wants to hurt individuals?”

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  1. Anybody who believes that this has ANYTHING to do with “security” is a fool. They ALWAYS wanted to get bandits out of the Marathon, and the only reason why is because they don’t pay registration fees. “Security” is just a convenient excuse to use the police to do the BAA’s dirty work for them. But the idea that a terrorist is going to jump onto the course and run all those miles carrying a bomb to the finish line is so utterly preposterous that I find it insulting that anybody expects me to believe it.

    But what bothers me even more is that the local press – the Freep included – is going along with this charade and spreading the lie that this is prevent another bombing.