By the time I finished writing my post from Friday night, I knew exactly what I was going to do in the morning. As I was writing, I studied the course map and developed a plan that I found morally acceptable. Was my pseudo-bandit-ing of the Olathe Marathon justified? You can decide for yourself.
The difference between 13.1 and 26.2 on this course is basically a 12-mile loop out and back on the Indian Creek trail, which I know and love. (Although I’m pretty sure I never want to run it in a race with out-and-back traffic.) I parked at the elementary school where I have started many a training run recently -which just happened to be the home of the 12/25 mile water station. I headed out at 6AM, a full hour before race time, essentially running the marathon course backwards.
I didn’t run the full 12 miles out-and back – I turned around at 5.5 instead of 6. It turns out, it may have been a bit wiser and more morally acceptable to turn around at 5 miles. Because while I was off the trails by 7:45, well before the marathers who started at 7AM would reach the 12-mile-mark, there was one course map which I had not studied the night before.
The 5K. It started at 7:30.
I shared a few hundred meters of trail with the race leaders. There were just a few guys running at the front, so it wasn’t crowded, but I felt pretty guilty about it. I was thrilled when I reached the end of the loop where the 5K continued toward the finish, so I could get the heck off the course.
I continued running the course backwards, now fully on the half marathon course. I got to about the 9-mile mark when I saw the leaders coming through. It was so much fun to cheer for them as I ran in the opposite direction on the sidewalk, and I was amazed at how many of them thanked me. I love runners. I was also completely shocked when people recognized me and said hello! I still feel like I hardly know anyone in the KC running community, but it’s so nice to see familiar faces.
At the 7 mile mark (14 and change for me) I ran out of sidewalk. It was time to defy my morals and violate the unwritten Runner’s Code… I stopped, took a GU, turned around, and merged onto the course with the runners, squarely in the middle of the pack.
I have mixed feelings about my experience as a bandit. I felt guilty and paranoid the entire time. Would an official yell at me for not having a race number? Did the runners notice as I passed by and resent me for it? On the other hand, it was getting warmer and warmer, and I was getting more and more exhausted, and it was so nice to run with other people throughout those miles. I saw a neon green shirt up ahead in the distance – it was Brie, the Fit Bride! Her bright, bright shirt helped me maintain a pace as I tried to catch her. Did I feel like a doofus saying hello to someone I’d never met? Umm, yes! But it’s pretty apparent that I’m a doofus in general, so I guess I was just being myself.
No one yelled at me, and no one – that I know of, at least – even noticed I wasn’t wearing a race number. I veered off the course at the 12-mile mark, as the racers headed to the finish. I had run just over 19 miles, and really needed that number to be over 20 before I could stop. That last 1.5 mile loop was miserable, hot, and slow. But I did it. I ran 20.6 miles. When I stopped, I momentarily coveted the water station’s Gatorade supply before remembering that I was at my car! And because I’m a doofus (see above), I had no less than three bottles of Gatorade in it. Sweet, sweet relief.
I collapsed stretched in the shade of a nice,big tree. The water station man actually offered me some of the official racing Gatorade, which I felt way too guilty to accept (so it’s a really good thing I had my own.) I watched the full marathon winner pass by before heading out. It was so great to be out there with all the racers today – I saw the winners of all three races! – and I’m seriously proud of all those who ran it. You have something to legitimately celebrate!
I’m celebrating too, even though I was a race-faker. A TDR – Training distance record? Sure. And most of all, no more runs of knee-demolishing length until race day! HOORAY!
So there we have it. I’m a big fat bandit – sort of. I tried my best to stay out of the way, was adamant about avoiding the benefits (read: hydration) provided to registered runners, cheered and offered encouragement as often as possible, and stayed more than a mile away from the start/finish lines. Aside from the little 5K debacle, I think I was a pretty friendly bandit.
But a bandit, nonetheless. I’m going to be torn about this for awhile.