Do Not Take The Risk: Chicago Marathon Bibs For Sale


The Chicago Marathon is full. Whenever a marathon has more demand than supply, bibs pop up in the secondary markets. Chicago has a no transfer policy.

I received 2 emails this morning directing me to this post on Instagram

Probably not a good idea to include #USATF when looking to illegally sell a bib.

As per usual, the marathonguide message board is full of people looking to buy or sell Chicago Marathon bibs.


Why It’s A Bad Idea

If you transfer a bib without the race’s knowledge, it’s a liability issue. The race does not know who you are or who to contact if there is a serious medical issue. Is this likely to happen in your particular case? No. But with potentially hundreds of bandits and unauthorized bib swappers on the course, it is a real possibility that it could happen during a race.

If you bought a bib for Chicago, you agreed that it was non transferable and non refundable.

The NYRR already has said they are issuing bans for runners that sell their bibs. They launched their Respect The Run Campaign ahead of the Brooklyn Half Marathon.


The person that you are selling your bib to does not care if you are banned. You are risking a ban for a few bucks. If you strongly disagree with a race’s non transfer policy, then don’t sign up. You can support a race that supports transfers,  like The Marine Corps Marathon. Transfers will likely never be allowed for races with lotteries and qualifying requirements. It would not be fair to those that were left out.

Allowing and coordinating transfers is a challenging task. Some races just do not have the resources to allow for transfers. Others don’t allow transfers or deferrals as a business decision. Again, if you don’t like the policy don’t sign up.

Alternatively you can try to use (A Marathon Investigation Supporter) to help facilitate an authorized transfer. They do attempt to work with races to facilitate tranfers – even when a race does not officially allow for transfers.



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  1. People should not break the rules, but these races, especially ones that are rolling in the $$$, should be more friendly to runners who are injured. They should either offer a partial refund OR an entry into the next year’s race at minimum. Instead, we get a much larger secondary market for this AND such rules encourage people who are injured to actually do the race.

  2. This is so dumb. Chicago STILL has the option to defer to next year through September 14th! Why risk this!?

    I say this as someone who is struggling with an injury right now and trying to figure out if I can be well enough to get some decent training in and still race safely for Chicago in a few months.

    • ‘Deferring’ for Chicago doesn’t really do much … just guarantees entry. You still have to pay again (and you eat the current year fee). I really don’t understand why they cant work out a limited transfer system. Heck, charge $50, donate 30 to charity and 20 to cover the costs.

  3. It’s funny that it’s almost easier to get INTO a marathon without paying [fake bibs or banditing] than to get OUT of one that you’ve already paid for

  4. I’m all for the reporting on and exposing the actual cheating that goes on and has been going on for years. (Btw the last guy alleged to have cheated has a 59 min 15k and a 1:37 half in his athlinks that kinda stand out)

    I don’t really care that anyone sell their bibs in races like Chicago (Boston and similar qualifying races would be the reverse). To me the root problem lies in the overall decline of competitive running (see recent publication about average times going way up). There is more of a participatory, social aspect, and bucket list mentality to marathoning and such – and there is nothing wrong with that. However, big races like Chicago fill up very quickly and one must sign up many months in advance. Injuries and life happens and plans change. Races may be wise to have a transfer policy for their own profit. perhaps give the injured runner a small refund and the new runner pays a new and even higher entry fee.

    • I think there are really two separate issues here though, allowing people to withdraw and be compensated and opening up these places to other runners.

      Yeah, races which won’t do any kind of refund for an injured runner seem a little unfair to me personally (especially when some of these races charge so much – Chicago entry was around $200 for an overseas runner for this years race if I recall correctly).

      However, big races which are always oversubscribed do assume a certain percentage of entrants won’t start. They have years and decades of experience, and know roughly how much this will be – so they are basically relying on only 90% of those who register turning up and running on the day. This is why larger races will not allow transfers or waiting lists typically. I’ve posted before that the London marathon are explicit about this – they have something like 50,000 places taken by charities, through the ballot or through qualifying times, but every year its somewhere around 39,000 to 40,000 who line up at the start. I assume the amount of refreshments, policing and whatever else required on the course is calibrated to this, so if they system changed and 50,000 entries meant closer to 50,000 starters, we would could even see fees increase for all runners.

      • I think it would be good to do a deferal/refund thing. This issue of that is really in most competitive sports. In triathlon some allow a deferral/refund and others do not, just like the marathons. You then have the other side of things, where some races give you an option to buy race insurance, which will allow you to get a full refund(minus the insurance).

        As a whole I completely agree that it is a very bad idea to buy or sell entries when it is not allowed by the event. Like said above, many events plan their numbers around the amount of people they do not expect to show up. I think that is sort of a bad idea, because what happens if they all do for some reason, but to each their own.

        • You can buy race insurance on your own too. It’s not that expensive compared to the price of a big city marathon plus travel and hotel. The only problem is you actually have to be injured or have a legitimate excuse. Events have to plan for the number of entries they sell. Their insurance is based on that number. The police presence is based on that number. If you don’t like it, find a race that offers transfers. Beyond the issues Derek points out, it also lets runners into corrals that they don’t belong in. Selling an A corral (sub 3:01 Marathon) bib to a slower runner puts that runner and everyone around her/him in danger. The qualifying cutoff at Chicago for men is 3:45; That’s an 8:3X mile vs a 6:5X for a 3:01. It’s not as if major marathon starts need to be any more hectic, but try throwing in a bunch of people running 1 minute+ slower per mile in the mix.

  5. You should check Craigslist the weekend of the race. Last year there were 20+ bibs available. Same with NYC.

  6. This happens often behind the scenes at charities. I’ve even witnessed people who work for charities trying to get bibs from athletes who are injured.

  7. Hey, so I took your advice and tried Bibswitch. They only have one bib posted on their site, though they did respond to my email, so I know they’re still there. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Your assertion “They do attempt to work with races to facilitate tran[s]fers – even when a race does not officially allow for transfers” no longer holds. Bibswitch emailed me “We are only posting bibs that can be transferred officially.”

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