Monthly Archives: April 2014

Boston Banditgate 2014

In case you missed it (not likely), last week there was a massive online hunt to capture and punish those that were caught using fake bibs at this year’s Boston Marathon.  Based on comments in articles and social media (remind me next time not to read the comments in news articles), many runners feel these bandits should be tarred, feathered, and then publicly stoned.  I’m only slightly exaggerating, but not by much…long jail sentences and lifetime bans from all races were all presented in a non ironical manner.

I should preface this (mostly for fear of getting including in the tarring and feathering part) by saying that I in no way condone making a counterfeit bib to enter a race.  But at the same time, I’m not quite as outraged as many others apparently are.  Should they have done what they did? No, of course not.  But I also believe the punishment (or in particular, the quest to publicly find and shame them) should fit the “crime”.  Bandits have long been a part of  major marathons, but the circumstances surrounding this year’s Boston Marathon have brought the issue to the forefront.

In my opinion, the biggest mistake these bandits made was that they didn’t just bandit the race, but counterfeited bibs. Historically, bandits are those that sneak into the race without a bib (often at the back of the pack), either right from the start or at the first opportunity.  As this Boston Globe article points out, Boston race organizers have always turned a blind eye and passively approved of bandits.  Just don’t take a medal (volunteers are instructed to check for bibs when distributing medals), and all is ok.  However, ahead of this year’s race, Boston Marathon officials requested that bandits not run given the extra security concerns and high demand of those wanting to be part of this year’s race.

The second mistake this group of bandits made was picking Boston, which of course is typically earned and reserved for those that are fast enough to qualify.  Although the race does set aside a certain number of spots for charity runners (and some of these bandits did apparently raise money for charity – again, not justifying, keep those feathers away from me!).  So counterfeiting your way into a race that is typically earned is going to draw an extra bit of ire from runners.

Will Boston Banditgate 2014 put an end to future race bandits?  Of course not, and although I’ve never run as a bandit, I guess I don’t have too much of a problem with those those choose too, as long as they are respectful of the unwritten bandit rules (such as don’t counterfeit a bib, don’t take a medal or other resources from registered runners, etc…).  Yes, banditting could potentially cause problems for a race, but I believe there’s probably some breaking point or threshold to where it would become a real problem.  Where that line is, I’m not sure…and maybe that’s part of the problem.  But if race directors feel the threshold has been crossed, I’m sure there will be increased measures at future races to help ward off potential bandits (wristband scanning, more spotters on course a la NYC).  But couple high registration costs with demand outweighing supply, and bandits will always try and find a way to beat the system.


Here’s a few interesting articles on race bandits:


Run For the Turtles 5k – Race Recap

Sarasota Running

imageI was originally signed up to run a local 5k on Saturday, April 5th, but ended up having to go out of town for work that weekend.  While I was disappointed in having to miss the 5k, the sun and 80 degree temps of Sarasota, FL was sure to help ease my pain.  I knew that I’d have Saturday morning free, so I took a look to see if there were any local races.  Sure enough, the Mote Marine Laboratory was hosting their 28th annual Run for the Turtles.  Since I usually run about as slow as a turtle, I knew this would be a good race for me.  Plus, based on pictures from the prior year, it looked like the start line was actually on the beach…so how bad could it be?

Run for Turtles Race VillageThe race took place on Siesta Key Public Beach in Sarasota, which many signs on the island will proudly tell you is the #1 Beach in America (they’ve apparently won a few different awards – and I wouldn’t argue with any of them, the sand and beach are pretty spectacular).  I got there around 6:45 am to register, which beat the time the sun got up that day, so it was a little dark filling out the registration form.  They had a 1-mile fun run that started at 7:30, with the 5k going off at 8 am.  Unlike my 5k the prior week, I didn’t need to sit in my car to stay warm.  I was able to walk along the beach for a bit and watch the sunrise – not a bad way at all to kill time.  I also learned that it was not just the start and finish line that was on the beach, but the entire race.  Basically just an out and back course right along the water, something you just don’t get to experience in Chicago!

imageMy race – Did I mention the whole course was on the beach?  Oh I did…well that’s about all you need to know about this race.  It was beautiful and stunning.  I was initially concerned that the sand would slow me down, but I really don’t think it had much impact.  There was a 5-foot area right by the water was fairly packed down, so it wasn’t like I was running on soft sand for 3 miles.

I did the first mile in 7:15 and felt pretty comfortable…after all, I just kept reminding myself I was running on the beach, I’m not allowed to feel anything negative.  Then a funny thing happened after the half-way turn, I started to get tired!  Not to make excuses, but I do think the heat and humidity were starting to get to me since I wasn’t accustomed to it (no, I’m not complaining about the 70 degree weather, and really don’t think my body would have preferred the sub-zero temps it had become used to).  Anyhow, I slowed to 7:46 in mile 2.  I even got a cramp in my side around the 2.25 mark, and finished mile 3 in 8:07.  I didn’t have as strong of a kick at the end as I did in my 5k the week prior, but that’s ok – because all that really mattered was that the entire race was on the beach!image

I finished in 23:46, which put me 7th out of 23 in my age group, and 82nd out of 588 overall.  1 to 3 in each age group got medals, and 4 to 6 got ribbons, so I missed an award by one spot – but isn’t running a race on the beach reward enough?  I think so (although I did think this was a pretty fast group of runners, apparently it’s one of the circuit races for the local Manasota Track Club).

The Swag – Besides getting to run on the beach (sorry, just had to mention that one last time), I received a white tech shirt with the Mote Turtle Run logo on the front.

RunForTurtles5kMapOverall, this was a great experience, especially coming from the harsh Chicago winter to be able to finally run a warm weather race.  I was pleased with my overall time, even if it was slower than last week.  And I felt like a learned a little bit about race preparation for shorter distances (I didn’t have much to eat or drink beforehand, which likely contributed to my slowing; and didn’t warm up much – two things I would have changed about my race prep that morning).

I also got to hear something by the pre-race announcer that I probably won’t hear at a Chicago race anytime soon.  He announced beforehand that “about 3/4 of a mile down the beach there’s a large tortoise near the water, which appears to be nesting, so be sure to give it a wide berth as to not disturb it.”  Wow, I thought, that’s an obstacle I won’t encounter in too many 5k races.  Just before the start, the announcer came on the speakers and clarified, “minor correction, I’ve just been told that it’s a large TOURist, not tortoise, 3/4 of a mile down on the beach.”  Only in Florida.

Siesta Key

Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop – Race Recap

Blackberry Farm 5k FinishI ran my second 5k of the year this last Saturday, March 29th, the Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop in Aurora, Illinois. Blackberry Farm bills itself as a “historical village”, and is part of the Fox Valley Park District.  It has a few paths surrounding the property, which made for a nice run through a mix of forested trails.  Most of the race was on paved trails (using the Virgil Gilman Trail), with a short section on crushed limestone.Blackberry Farm 5k Course

I missed the online cut-off for signing up (which was something like a week ahead of time), so I got there early to register.  I had no problems registering, but had about 45 minutes to kill before the 8:30 am start.  Unfortunately, it was a rather miserable Chicago day – gray and windy and cold – so I spent the pre-race time huddled in the warmth of my car.  I spent most of the time debating my clothing options, and ended up sticking with my running jacket.  I walked over to the starting area about 10 minutes before the start, and was immediately glad I had opted for the jacket.  Too cold for March 29th!

Start Line of Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop

Start Line of Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop

My Race – I lined up towards the front a few rows back.  The gun went off and I took off like an idiot, racing like it was a 100 meter dash (I really need to work on that negative split thing).  I didn’t feel particularly out of breath or tired in the first half mile, but knew I was definitely going faster than I should have or could maintain for the full 5k.  In fact, I was a little scared to glance down at my watch because I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to know my pace at this point, in fear it might psych me out.  I worked up the courage to take a peek at the half mile mark, and found I was doing a 6:30 mile – way too fast for my slow legs!  So I dialed it back a bit to a more comfortable pace and finished mile 1 in 7:01.

I settled in and felt pretty good in the second mile, still pushing myself but nothing out of control.  I managed a 7:33 in mile 2, and just hoped I could maintain that pace in the third mile.  I was still feeling pretty good until around the 2.5 mile mark, when I started to feel fatigue in my legs (hmmm, I guess sprinting out of the starting gate is not an ideal race strategy after all).

I started battling another runner with a half mile to go. I would get passed and then they would pass me.  Soon enough though the other racer got a good 10 yards on me and seemed to be gaining speed, while I was slowing.  At this point, the race meandered and winded its way through a section near the finish, with lots of little turns.Blackberry Farm 5k Finish  I knew we were approaching the parking lot where the finish line was positioned, but couldn’t reconcile why my watch was telling me we still had .25 miles to go…since the finish was in sight.  This made me nervous because I didn’t want to start my finishing kick too early, or too late.  But as we approached it became clear that there was one little loop left in the parking lot before heading to the finish line.  Ah, I instantly felt better being able to see the remainder of the course, and confirm that my watch was not playing some evil and cruel early April Fools joke on me.

Anyhow, I still had my competing racer in sight on the last stretch, and was able to muster a strong sprint finish over the last .10…and managed to outkick the other racer by a good 2 seconds!  Ok, confession time – the racer I had been battling the last half mile was an 11-year old girl!  No, I am not proud of beating her (barely beating her), as I really was just battling and pushing myself rather than racing against anyone else.  And yes, that 11-year old girl is 10 times the runner I am, or will ever be.  She ended up being the second overall female finisher – and obviously has a very bright running future ahead of her.  Mine is much more questionable!

Blackberry Farm 5k FinishSo I ended up finishing in 22:32 (7:16 pace), which put me in 30th out of 394 runners, and 5 out of 25 in my age group (but would have been 1st in the 1-14 Female group, which as you know is my primary competition).  So this was easily good enough for a PR over my 24:18 back on February 2nd, which I’m obviously happy about.

Swag – The goodie bag included a long-sleeve t-shirt (not a tech shirt, but still ok), a bag with the race logo on it, and various other trinkets such as a key chain and stress ball which my daughters were very happy to take from me.

Overall – While the weather didn’t cooperate (missed it by just one day, the Sunday after was close to 60 degrees), this was a nice course and I was thrilled with my time.  Doing more short runs where I focus on speed rather than distance has helped with my cadence and quickness for these shorter races.  All in all a great morning, even if the weather wasn’t very “spring-like.”