After 13 Years of Running Unregistered, NYC Marathon Bandit Unapologetic

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Keith proudly posted a photo after his 2018 NYC Marathon “finish”.

He does not appear in the results, but he did get a medal.

Keith officially appears in the results of 2 New York City Marathons over the past 15 years. He says he used friend’s bibs for 2 more. He ran the 11 more without any bib whatsoever.

Keith is a bandit. He bandited 11 NYC Marathons, and ran two more with bibs that were purchased from friends. I reached out to Keith, and here is his statement.

In short, you are correct- don’t go anywhere near the start line. Security won’t let you in the start area or the first couple of miles unless you are a runner. But after that, one can just jump right on. I run the first 3.3 miles on my own, and do the rest of the race on the same course the NYC Marathon runners use.

I don’t take a recovery bag when I run unofficially (in fact, I am sometimes asked to leave just before the finish line, which I’m perfectly ok with), and put a $20 bill in my sock, to buy a medal off someone. I’m aware that I won’t change your mind, but I have come across many finishers who after hearing how much I love the race (to the point of doing it unofficially), they give me their medal for free. In fact, I got a red jacket (with sleeves) for free from a medical volunteer, who was so touched by my wanting to do the race, at all costs.

I routinely donate money to charitable causes to do races- but it is all my own funds. I don’t like asking others to donate to a cause of mine- I have the funds myself. So for the Tunnel-to-Towers climb this past year (which I did officially), I donated all the needed money. I’m happy to donate money when racing, but the Marathon requirement is around $3,500, which is more than I want to give to any one charity. I never felt right asking others to give money to “my” charity, when everyone has a worthy charity of their own that they want to donate to.

In summary, I don’t take a recovery bag when running unofficially, I buy a medal, and would never dream of copying someone else’s number. I know this makes me a horrible person in your mind, and I wish this wasn’t the case. It may not truly be a victimless crime, but I think it is close.

In further posts on Facebook, Keith admits that he doesn’t always buy his medals. He buys them when he is unable to obtain one from a volunteer.

He says he doesn’t take the recovery bag,but he did imply that he managed to get a poncho.

Keith’s assertion that this is nearly victim-less is something I have an issue with. In my opinion, this is theft. Keith ran 13 races that he did not pay for. The total entry fees for those races would be well over $2000. Over 50,000 runners finished this year’s New York City Marathon, and paid the entry fee, or raised the required amount for charity. Keith puts himself above those runners. There is no justification – whether he donates individually to other charities is irrelevant.

In further discussion, Keith related that he has heard estimates that 400-600 runners bandit the race each yea, and estimates that the resulting costs may increase fees by a couple of dollars or less. So, he really doesn’t see the harm.

One could make the same argument that it is OK to shop lift if only 1% of people do it, hey, who does it hurt? This argument is a poor justification for what amounts to theft.

How To Gain Entry To New York City Marathon

Keith wrote that he would be happy to pay more than cost for an official entry every year – but that he would not do so through an official charity entry.

Keith had another option. If he had  joined The New York Road Runners, he could have gained entry through The NYRR 9+1 option. If you compete in 9 NYRR events and volunteer at another, you receive a guaranteed entry to the following year’s race.

For 2019 NYRR offered another way to receive a guaranteed entry. Paying the $100 entry fee for the virtual race earns the runner a guaranteed non-complimentary entry to The 2019 New York City Marathon.

 

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32 COMMENTS

  1. I didn’t get a lottery slot in the NYCM this year. It was my single best opportunity to run that race – really the last must do race for me – as I was 50 miles north of the city all weekend. (I don’t live in NY). I guess I should have just cheated the system like this guy. NOT.

    I find it hard to believe he can buy a medal off someone for $20. And if he is it’s coming from a volunteer who is pocketing the $20. Anyone who actually ran the race wouldn’t part with their medal.

    It seems the ‘virtual’ marathon route has limited spots too. So I’m guessing IF you get a virtual slot and if you run the race you are effectively paying the extra $100 to buy entry into the next race. Either way it’s not a guaranteed entry really.

    • Plus I think you had to not just pay and run the virtual but you also had to run it within the time limits when posted on Strava.

  2. “I have come across many finishers who after hearing how much I love the race (to the point of doing it unofficially), they give me their medal for free.”

    Yeah, right! So he tells other runners he didn’t pay the ~$250 entry fee that they did but he just LOVES the race so much, and they just hand over their hard-earned medal?! This is the most laughable thing I’ve heard in a long time. Is this some kind of Jedi mind trick he plays?

    I don’t believe for a second that people would sell their medal (for a sweaty $20 bill) right at the finish line let alone give it away for free to a thief, I don’t believe that he eschews a finishers bag if it’s offered to him, and I doubt he donates his own money to charity “routinely” to do races. He should just own it – “I don’t pay because I feel I can get away with it, and you are a sucker if you choose to pay your way into the race.” It’s not murder he’s committing here, but c’mon – don’t make yourself sound like some romantic runner who loves the race so much and is such a part of it that people are giving him medals and free jackets because they’re so in awe of your devotion to a race you didn’t pay for.

  3. The NYC marathon ran out of medals this year. There were finishers (including a friend of mine) who crossed the finish around 6:30 pm who weren’t able to get a medal despite legitimately qualifying and paying for this race. This man might think what he did is justified but it’s unfair to those who ended up having their marathon experience ruined.

    • That seems odd. I was spectating at the finish line as a volunteer from 6:45pm-10pm (when the final 2 finishers came in), and everyone that crossed that line was given a medal.

      • The must have replenished quickly but they definitely ran out of medals. I spoke to runners that were sad. they were told to pick up the next day or have it shipped.

  4. I don’t believe for a minute that runners and volunteers are so “touched” by his desire to run the race without paying. He lives in a bit of a reality-distortion field.

  5. I ran this year for Run for Kids, it was a guaranteed entry, I raised the funds needed plus all the other first time fees.

    Thay this man basically stole a medal from someone. If he loves running NYC marathon so much why dosen’t he do it legit. If he uses someone’s bib. He and that person should be band from all marathons.

  6. That’s messed up especially since they ran out of medals for a bit this year. They had to replenish so quite a few of the later finishers went home without medals and were told to come back or had to wait for theirs to be shipped etc… That is awful to cross a finish line and not get a medal. Not his fault, more NYRR’s fault but he still took one.

  7. So he donates money to all sorts of charities but is too cheap to buy a new shirt or pair of shorts for at least 4 years in a row? I’m not believing it.

  8. What a load of bs. He is too much of a “good guy” to ask people for money for charity, but he has no problem taking advantage of a non-profit organization thats spends millions of $$ to close the streets, pay for police, set up the course, etc while 50,000+ other people (actual good people) foot the bill. Yeah, you’re a real good guy!

    “I’m happy to donate money when racing, but the Marathon requirement is around $3,500, which is more than I want to give to any one charity. I never felt right asking others to give money to “my” charity, when everyone has a worthy charity of their own that they want to donate to”

    Every single charity partner of the NYC is worthy of at least $3,500 and every year thousands of runners work hard to raise the money to raise millions of dollars for those worthy causes. What an “F you” to all of those people. If you don’t “Feel right” asking for money, have a bake sale, go canning outside a grocery store or something. Give people the opportunity do donate to your cause (or to say no!), it’s not like your forcing them to give money to “YOUR charity”.

  9. Also, I can’t see his bib number to look up his time, but did you notice how in the only picture of him with a bib, he finished in the dark, while all of the other pictures its light out? Making it seem more than likely that not only is he banditing, but he is not even running the whole race.

    “Evidence”:
    The only year that he actually started at the beginning AND had digital splits recorded, it took him more than 6 hours to finish the course (Wave 1 start, coral B start would be around 10am, sunset was 4:47pm). But every other year, where he “hopped in at mile 3” he ran the full course faster? (Yes, I know its possible he started with a later wave even though he had a wave 1 bib, just throwing it out there that its suspicious)

    • Upon zooming in, I realize he was wave 2, C. Still 10:30am start > 6hrs, finished in the dark. Every other year, finished before 4:30?

  10. Wow! He should do the right thing if he loves and respects the race so much. I win the lottery and paid the fee to run this past Sunday. In addition, my BF raised the charity bib requirement happily to run and raise $ for a good cause. And he’ll no we wouldn’t give anyone our meal for any amount of $. We earned those medals. Run another race and pay for it.

  11. I do have a serious question, and this is not an indictment or generalization of others, but genuine curiosity: Is he on the spectrum? I have some family experience with it, and his justification and intransigence is a bit familiar. (It is also in a way a polar opposite of some things I have seen.)

  12. I am a race director for a small race (up to 400 runners max) and I have had the discussion with people who say that the race is held on a tarmac trail that they use for their long run every weekend of the year, just because we are there one Sunday is not going to stop them running and if they choose to start at the same time we do then that is not their problem. Over the years some have gone through the finish and have given our timers issues but nobody has got a shirt without providing a race number. The common thing they say is that as our race entry fee does not go to charity then why should they pay for running a route they do anyhow. In my mind it is a tough one to be fair about. I am not sympathetic to the person you write about but I must say that if he didn’t do the medal and camera hogging and didn’t go through the finish (not that it matters for a chip timed race), I would have far less reasonable grounds for disapproval. If the race didn’t fill up or was struggling financially then I could go along with the idea that he is “stealing” somehow but this is the NYC marathon after all, five full price entries are probably equal to my total race profit.

    • That’s like saying its okay to steal from Target but not from your local store because their profit is much larger. In fact, the NYC Marathon probably costs more than 5X to put on that what your small race does because of the police presence and cost to shut down NYC streets.

      • Did you miss the part where I say “I am not sympathetic to the person you write about” ? Or did you miss my general tone ? Your analogy fails because the person is not getting a free entry, they are not getting the rights of entry and presumably the race fills up so your analogy would be more correct to say that it is OK to browse your local shop with no intent to buy but as it happens they are completely out of stock.
        I don’t like it that we have had bandits but keeping a sense of proportion about it does not cost anyone anything.

    • I agree with you ExpertKipWatcher. I ran NYC on Sunday and I don’t think it’s a huge deal to bandit. The only thing that makes me mildly annoyed at bandits that may have taken a medal is that they ran out of medals for a bit so some runners had to pick up the next day or have theirs mailed. That’s not fair.

      Most people bandit to support or pace their friends for part of the course. Whatever. Not a big deal.

  13. Okay, that last comment about getting a new running outfit pretty much solidified it. I’m pretty sure he’s on the spectrum. This doesn’t excuse his behavior, but It does mean there is hope.

    Derek, if you want to reach him, you’re going to have to take a different approach. He’s developed his own moral code for this, and the straight ahead approach won’t gel with his way of thinking, whatever that is. And there is no way to know exactly, as everyone is different. But there it is, and perhaps helps explain your difficulty talking with him.

    • I agree with you. I don’t think Derek should continue to pursue him. I guess it doesn’t excuse it but it feels a little mean to pick on him. Honestly I’m not super passionate about banditing. I ran on Sunday and I just feel bad for the people who couldn’t get medals on the spot because they ran out and that makes me only mildly annoyed at bandits that got medals.
      Otherwise I know I’ll get slammed for this but I dont really think it’s a huge deal.

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