Why Bib Swapping is Wrong and Dangerous – Follow Up To ‘Bearded Julie’ Feedback

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I have written many articles about bib swapping. I wrote one on Friday that got quite a bit of reaction from both sides. Julie gave her bib to William for a local 5k. William placed 2nd in Julie’s age group. I chose to write about this particular situation because both William and Julie joked about ‘Bearded Julie’ placing in her age group. To me this showed a complete lack of awareness of the effect that this had on the true 2nd and 3rd place winners of Julie’s age group. Secondly they posted about this in a large Facebook group. No one that commented or liked the post mentioned anything about bib swapping being against the rules. I felt this would be a good instance to use my platform to educate runners about bib swapping and unintended consequences.

The Response

Based on the reaction (mostly from a handful of members of You vs. The Year Facebook Group) I feel the need to post a follow-up regarding the criticism and the indifference by many towards bib swapping. Shortly before publishing the article I was accepted into the group. A member posted the article in the group, and I jumped in to answer questions and criticism. The discussion was civil and I felt productive. However, I was removed from the group and could not continue the conversation there.

William responded in the group:

  • Never did I state that the intent was to deceive. The point was not William’s and Julie’s intent but the effect of an unauthorized bib swap on other competitors.
  • No, I did not reach out to William or Julie. As was mentioned in the comments, there was nothing to investigate.What happened was out in the open. I made no comments about intent. The issues here revolve solely on the decision for Julie to give her bib to William. I believe that the consequences were unintended. I did follow my own advice as far as attempting to educate the running community.
  • To deflect blame on the race for not immediately correcting the result is shameful. William was the one, along with Julie that refused to follow the rules of the race. The race allows transfers up until the day before the race for a $25 fee. As a result of their decision, the women that finished behind William did not receive the recognition they deserved on race day. For those that claimed that Julie was never in the results, see below. As of this morning, she still appears in the results. William claims to have emailed the race after the fact. I hope this is the case, but it does not absolve him of responsibility.

  • Nowhere in his initial statement did William accept any responsibility for his actions.

Much of the response in the group was talk about keeping issues ‘in house’, and disdain towards the tipster. The tipster was referred to as ‘a mole’. Some are following a typical tactic of blaming the messenger, but not addressing the real issue of bib swapping.

Some members did speak out against the bib swapping. I am not disparaging the members of the group as a whole. As I mentioned above, I was engaged in a productive dialogue prior to being removed from the group.

Below is a statement from the tipster in this case:

Sorry this took a while to respond to your request.  Upon seeing the initial posts in the group I was upset that people were glorifying not following the rules. The Surf City 10 specifically states on their website that you can not give or sell your bib to someone else. It did allow for a deferment or transfer of bibs. Apparently the original bib owner did not feel this was necessary and decided to give her bib to William instead. At first I thought about posting in the group about how I felt and then hesitated based on the backlash I knew I would receive. There were already numerous comments about the amazing achievement of PRing two races at the same time. In addition I have posted this sort of feedback in the past only to be lambasted by disagreeing members of the group. 

Instead I emailed the race director informing them that Julie should be removed from the results as it was really run by a man (with the pictures to verify) as it took away age group placement from deserving runners. The response I received from the race was a simple thank you. When the results hadn’t been removed over a week later I forwarded the information to you. My sole intent was to help ensure the correct people were recognized for their achievements. The fact that the admin of the group says “is bib sharing unacceptable maybe, maybe not” is partially why I felt that I would not be supported. 
Once again, my sole intent was to ensure that the right people were rewarded for their efforts and that the results would be reflective of the rightful age group winners being recognized. Instead I became the most hated person in the group, the infamous mole!  The group proceeded to kick people out of the group that didn’t think it was ok for someone to race under someone else’s bib. Maybe if everyone followed the published rules, your site wouldn’t be necessary. Until then it is appreciated by those who value integrity in sport. 
My goal in all of this, is that I hope one person learns why bib sharing is not an acceptable practice. 

Bib Swapping – Why It’s Wrong

  • You agreed to the rules of the race when you signed up. If the race allows transfers, follow the procedure. It’s not OK to give (or sell) your bib outside of the race procedures.
  • As illustrated above, giving your bib away can affect age group placements. You may not be thinking about placing in your age group. But when a 70 year old woman gives her bib to a speedy 20 something male, it is very possible that awards will be affected (a similar thing happened to Kathrine Switzer in The 2017 New York Marathon).
  • In the event of an emergency, if you are running with someone else’s bib, medical personnel won’t know who you are or who to contact if you are unresponsive. This was posted on The Marathon Investigation Facebook page:

I volunteered in medical at LA in 2015. At the finish line a lady was unresponsive. We used her bib number to call her family. It wasn’t her bib!!! The bib owner sold it to some guy. It was five hours before they had an id on the lady. And could get her family to her. Yes snitch on bib swappers it could save a life.

 

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23 COMMENTS

  1. “Maybe if everyone followed the published rules, your site wouldn’t be necessary. Until then it is appreciated by those who value integrity in sport.”

    Ex-freakin-zactly! Keep doing what you are doing.

  2. This isn’t a completely one sided issue:

    Race directors commonly oversell races, require registration very far in advance of race day and count on less than perfect turnout for what would otherwise be an overcrowded and possibly unsafe race. This is the real motivation behind most of the reluctance to allow bib transfers or deferrals and most of the profiteering that goes on in the event of a bib transfer or deferral.

    Both sides are in the wrong – but the runner here is acting irresponsibly so not to lose something he or she paid for. The race director is acting irresponsibly to in many ways fleece his customer.

    Slowly, things are turning. Not very long ago – a similar unethical practice was deemed illegal: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/organizer-nyc-marathon-accused-illegal-lottery-article-1.2505055 – and I hope that this practice (overselling races) is also found to be so. It is a type of fraud since the consumer is not being told at time of purchase that what they are purchasing has been oversold.

    And what if – by some strange turn of events an oversold race has much fewer no-shows than the race director planned? Who is responsible for what is now could be a dangerously crowded race? It can’t be the runner in that case.

    This website does a lot of good – but another way to significantly reduce “bib mules” is to convince race directors to act ethically and responsibly – which does not seem to be the norm.

    Apologies to all of those race directors who DO permit bib transfers and deferments at reasonable cost – of course I’m not putting any blame on you and appreciate what you do.

  3. Sorry – I missed an important point. Even races that do not sell out – often prepare for less runners than they’ve signed up. Perhaps a race with 1500 participants only has enough fluids, shirts and volunteers for 1250 participants. Allowing bib transfers might mean needing to prepare for 1475 participants with 1500 signups. 225 extra participants would be an extra cost – perhaps several hundred dollars.

  4. This group is populated by a**holes predominantly, ill say it. It doesn’t surprise me they’d encourage cheating. Good riddance, they removed me and banned me for disagreeing that cheating is amazing in this case. Under armor is mostly trash nowadays but even so I’ll never patronize their company again after condoning this behavior. Multiple people have alerted them to this and they ignore it.

    • Unfortunately, a lot of groups tend toward this. I don’t know if it’s most of them, or just some of them, but it’s been almost all the ones I’ve been a part of on FB.

    • Anya, I don’t think the majority are a**holes. There are over approx 31,000 members. It’s just there’s a group of very, very regular posters numbering no more than about twenty or so that believe it is their FB page. Unfortunately the current (non UA) admin are aligned with this group and they do indeed come down hard on anyone they believe is a threat to that status quo – hence the anonymous tipsters reluctance to tackle the rule breaking and following bad behavior issue head on. As for UA, I get the impression they very rarely check in on it and it has become a case of the lunatics are running the asylum. UA could do themselves a favor and end their affiliation to the page.

  5. Full credit to you Derek, and to the tipster. You have clearly explained why bib swapping is not ok. I think this is a case where you (and other runners with integrity) are trying to have a rational discussion with people who can’t see beyond their irrational opinions.

  6. I never considered that bib swapping could be an issue until a friend of ours injured her knee at work. Another friend came to the race and ran with our other friend’s bib. There were no issues with the race as they are not competitive runners. The issue arose when our friend with the injured knee applied for accommodations at work, they searched for her name and found race results when she was supposed to have an injury. Her claim was denied, and she had to keep working with a bad knee. They eventually reversed their decision when race photos were shown and some letters were written to the investigators.

  7. Absolutely not defending bib swappers, but a $25 fee to change participant details for a 5km race is a bit over the top.

    I get that race organisers don’t want to be making changes non-stop in the lead up to the race, but if you made it possible to do it yourself somehow for a nominal fee or something, that would prevent some of these cases.

    • This race has over 5000 people in three different distances. Many large races don’t allow bib transfers at all.

    • I’m sure people would be more likely to transfer bibs if it cost only $1. I’m also sure bearded julie could afford 25 dollars.

  8. this wasn’t boasting, it was joking and sarcasm. The perps posts are full of humor and in this case, it is mountains out of molehills. Sorry, Derek if the real crime is $25 bucks for an inflated transfer fee, that’s pretty small stuff. But I do like reading the site.

    • But the problem is, bearded man did not correct the standings in a timely manner, so the 3rd and 4th-place women did not get to stand on the podium. He says he told the race directors, so maybe they are to blame, but it appears he knew he took 2nd and did nothing until after boasting on social media and being called out for stealing the spot.

      • How timely should it have been if he told the race directors? It seems to me he told the directors and then had a good laugh about it on social media. And we’re not talking about the olympics here, we’re talking about a race where they run up, grab a medal and get out. If the 2nd and 3rd place people are that bent over not getting their $4 medal on time, then that’s on them but maybe derek should ask them if they are devastated. I get it in that he should’ve paid the transfer fee but I think derek’s time was wasted on this one.

        • Where are you seeing anything about the bearded man telling the directors anything at all ever? The blue writing is not William/”Bearded Julie”–it’s the anonymous “tipster” who reported the misdeed based on William and Julie’s posts in a Facebook group. William’s reply is the one blaming the race for the problem for not noticing he was cheating.

          • Exactly, this william fella is removing himself from any responsibility by claiming that the race organizers should have figured out he wasn’t Julie. What an a-hole.

        • G, we don’t pick and choose when we do and do not follow the rules based on what type of race it was…there cannot be that kind of subjectivity. the rules are there, we know it when we sign up and that’s the end of it. Don’t like the rules, don’t race.
          And as far as a $4 metal, I think you’re truly missing the point. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $400, $4 or even $0.04 metal. Somebody earned that. And sometimes that might be their first one. I was robbed of a trail course in 2015 because a runner cut the trail. Two years prior to that I was almost 300 pounds and through my hard work and dedication that would have been the first time that I ever would have placed in my age division. That moment was taken away from me, that $4 medal meant something great and significant to me. and just like this, the results fix themselves weeks later, but that moment was done. That opportunity for me to feel accomplishment At that moment was robbed for me and I spent the next few weeks quite angry. And even now that is not a good memory for me and I know I’m far from the only person that has had the situation.
          Its called integrity… And it is something severely lacking in our society that we need to address. We do not pick and choose what rules we want to follow, and when we make a mistake, we should certainly own it and not try to deflect blame or make excuses.
          Derek did not waste his time when he brought to light a situation that if we continue to not hold people accountable, will continue to rob the rightful people of their placement as well as the race of money that should be given to them.

  9. What a terrible response from “Bearded Julie.” I’m sure no malice was intended when the bib was given, but the correct response when called out for this thoughtless action is an apology: to the people in the age group bumped from their correct placements, to the race, accompanied by the cheated $25, and to the people in their social media group that they influenced into thinking this behavior was okay with their posts. Instead he blames the race for not noticing he was cheating?? Get your heads out of your butts, William and Julie. Learn from this, do your best to make amends, and move on.

  10. I’m not currently a runner, but in my early twenties I ran races (on a much smaller scale). I’d entered a local city 5k and convinced my grandparents to walk in the same race. My grandfather was almost 80 and the last to finish, but he did. I’d returned to accompany him as he finished up the race and make sure he crossed the finish line – he did.

    It was obvious who i was and what i was doing, still having the same bib on as when I’d finished. I’m pretty sure i crossed the finish alongside him – and was confused by the reactions of my father (ex runner) and the officials in charge. That’s the first time i understood the impact of the bib…. And how races of any size (but especially those of a larger scale) depend on validity and accuracy when calculating race position to ensure fair results for all competitors.

    Since there wasn’t any person left in that race to accidentally shortchange, in hindsight, i think what i did was ok (though i wouldn’t do the same again knowing what i know now). I learned the impact of bib swapping accidentally here, but it was definitely well understood by the other runners, even in this small, otherwise inconsequential, race.

    So, with that as my foundation, I’m surprised to read anyone feeling anything but frustration (at best) to the indifference shown by the original, non-bearded Julie. Nowhere in the story does it appear anything malicious was intended – just like me accompanying my Gramps across the finish many moons ago – but the end results are the same regardless of intent.

    Fairness. That’s all that’s asked. Fairness and being considerate to those impacted by your actions.

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