OMY! Sports News

Illegals. Who and why are racing unregistered?

An unofficial start is a race without registration, bib number and chip, without a place in the overall ranking and therefore without a medal. Nevertheless, about 0.5%* of participants in big races somehow cover some of the distance without registering.

Racing without registering is not okay.

Many people will say: it’s not fair! Runners without registration enjoy most of the benefits that organizers provide to participants for money. This is not only water and food during the run, but much more valuable — the opportunity to plunge into the atmosphere of euphoria of the mass start and run through the streets of your favorite city blocked for you.

The free-rider problem.

The free-rider problem has been known for a long time. Its meaning is that the consumer of a public good tries to avoid paying for it. There are many such examples in ordinary life:
  • using public transportation without buying tickets
  • parking without paying for it
  • not getting vaccinated
Few people admit that they have ever ridden a bus “hare”, but almost everyone has such an experience. So the problem of illegal participation of amateurs in races is nothing special.

The motivation of illegal racers.

  • Selfishness: I want to get energized by people running around me or do a hard workout that I don’t want to do alone
  • Respectful reason: I want to support my friends who are running for results and work out as an individual pacer.
  • Addiction: I want to get an extra shot of adrenaline from doing something slightly illegal.
  • Fairy tales: I happened to be in Tokyo on the day of the Tokyo Marathon, sneakers and shorts with me — why not race it?

A private case of pacers.

Many run unofficially to support friends, as private pacers and for moral support. Organizers understand the need of many participants for proper pacing and provide official pacers. This helps to reduce the number of helpers who start without a number. But the value of individual support is high, so it is not possible to eradicate the problem completely. A vivid example of pacers who do not run to the end of the distance, but strongly help the leader to show the result, is pacing in the elite category of participants. Just remember Eliud Kipchoge’s victories and records at the Berlin Marathon and other races with the team of pacers. They do the bulk of the hard work for the leader for the first half of the course and withdraw before reaching the finish line. This is a thankless job, yet is paid for by the winner from the prize money received.

Illegal Ethics.

If you decide to race without registering, do not interfere with registered participants. Use less of the organizers’ infrastructure for yourself — for example, food and drinks. If you are running as a pacer, help those you are leading — pass water or food at the right moment. Most importantly, don’t claim a medal or cross the finish line — withdraw early. Show some respect.

Who will not do it?

We hope that the question of participation without registration does not arise in the minds of 99% of participants. Without number and chip there is no place in the ranking and finisher’s medal. This question is obviously not relevant for the elite and those who run for results. Opinion leaders, bloggers or celeberties are also unlikely to risk their image and race without registration.

What to do if you really want it?

If you’re among the 1% who are pondering, the best alternative to participating in mass runs without registration are other options:
  • free competitve runs, such as Parkrun.
  • Long group training sessions with numerous running clubs.
  • Training and mini-competitions with friends
Make the most of running, respect others, have fun and enjoy the company of friends.
*empirical data