Category Archives: Running

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:


Chicago Runners Needed to be TV Show Extras and Become Famous

Emmy Award for Best Extra

And the Emmy for Best Extra in a comedy or drama goes to…

What do Robert DeNiro, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep all have in common?  They are all award-winning actors/actresses that started their career as an extra on a TV show.  All right, I have no idea if that’s actually true – it’s probably not.  But it could be I suppose, which is all that really matters. Right? Maybe not, oh well – that’s the intro I’m going with.

Anyways, I know how us runners like getting medals and stuff, so if you too want to someday win an Oscar or at least an Emmy, here’s your chance to get started.  The NBC show Chicago Fire is looking for runners (or at least people that look like they run – which is a good opportunity to show off your acting chops you honed while playing a rock in your 2nd grade class’s stage adaptation of The Godfather) to work as extras for an upcoming episode.  The episode involves a 5k benefiting the Fire Dept where some sort of accident happens at the race.  They may arc it (look at me with all the Hollywood lingo) with an episode for Chicago PD as well.

I just talked with Cole at the casting company, and he asked if I could help spread the word since they’re looking for more than 200 runners.  They’ll be shooting in Chicago sometime between February 21st and March 21st, but don’t know the exact date(s) yet that they’ll need the runners.  Extras could be needed for 1 day, 3 days, or 5 days depending on how things go.  Each day could start as early as 5 am, and be as long as 15-18 hours.  You’ll also get paid for your foray into television stardom – $80/day for eight hours, then time and a half after that.

Here’s all the details from the Chicago Fire Extras Facebook page:

Crossover show Casting Alert! Searching for males and females, who can dress like runners and can run for our crossover scene (you won’t be running long distances, just a little bit) and look like you are runners. This is the cool scene where an accident happens at this race. If you already sent in, please send in again with a picture of yourself in running clothes (sweats, etc.) send to and put “runner” in the subject line. Include your height, weight, age, and phone number. Please only send in if you can work multiple days.

Cole mentioned to be sure to include your phone number in your email as noted above so they can call you back.

And just think of the awesome viewer party you’ll get to throw once the episode finally airs.  All your friends will be huddled around the TV waiting to see you, and then your moment arrives.  You pause the TV and exclaim, “There, there I am!!! You can clearly see my left shoulder in the upper left hand corner of the screen!  I’d recognize that shoulder anywhere!!!”

When you finally accept your Emmy for best work as an extra in a comedy or drama television series, just be sure to remember to thank me in your speech (remember, there are two As in Soar Feat – I’m a bit concerned the pun will get phonetically lost, but I trust you).


…and hat tip to the blog Zach Runs Chicago which is where I first learned of this, via a tweet from Chicago Run Bloggers.

Death Valley Stops Badwater From Playing in the Park

Death Valley National Park While I’ll probably never be one of the lucky/unlucky few that run the Badwater Ultra, 135 miles traditionally from Death Valley to the start of the Mt Whitney trail, I’ve always had a fascination with the race.  Maybe it’s because I really can’t really imagine running that far in those extreme conditions, but yet having a (very) small part of me wondering if it’s something I could do.  For now, I’m just in awe of anyone that attempts it…or any race of that length for that matter.

Unfortunately, because of a rather sudden change by the new superintendent of Death Valley National Park, the 2014 edition of Badwater won’t be allowed in the park, and is instead being routed to surrounding areas.  The LA Times had a good write-up on this a few days ago. AdventureCORP, the company that runs the race, also has a lot of additional detail on their website, highlighting their past safety record and positive economic impact the race has had on the area.

Death Valley ThermostatWhile I’ve never been there for the actual race, I did have the pleasure of visiting Death Valley on the way to climb Mt. Whitney last August.  We took the obligatory picture of the car thermostat (117° that day), and I was really struck at how beautiful of a setting it is.  In my mind I was expecting more of a flat and sandy landscape, but the rocky badlands were anything but that.  Had it not been for the Badwater race, I’m not sure I would have had the same curiosity to visit the park.Death Valley National Park badlands

Anyway, I can only hope that the National Park Service comes to their senses soon and lets this great race continue.  Doesn’t the government have bigger things to worry about than a race that has a flawless safety record and has brought nothing but good publicity (and $$) to the area?

If you need a primer on Badwater, here are a few good documentaries I would recommend:

  • This 2013 documentary is available on YouTube, and follows a few different ultra runners attempting their first Badwater race
  • The AdventureCORPS YouTube channel has a number of good short videos on past races
  • Running On the Sun is a great documentary of the 1999 race.  I think in the past it’s been available for Netflix streaming, but doesn’t appear so right now (just DVD).  Here’s the trailer: