Bandits Are Running the Boston Marathon This Weekend
“For us, it’s about finishing what you started,” says Sean Schofield, volunteer coordinator at Boston College’s Campus School.
For many involved in last year’s Boston Marathon, one of the hardest things was not being able to finish the race after the bombings. Runners prepared for months to participate in one of the city’s most beloved events, and not being able to cross the finish line was a particularly devastating blow.
This year gives many runners a second chance, but due to an increase in security, some will not have that opportunity—the “bandits.”
There are two ways to qualify for the marathon and receive a bib: the first is by running another marathon to qualify by time, and the second is by running with a charity team. But bandit runners—those who have not received official bibs—have notoriously been a large part of the Boston Marathon. Increased security in response to last year’s bombings, however, prevent these runners from participating on April 21.
Instead of forgoing this year’s race altogether, the Campus School team at BC decided to organize their own marathon and run the full route this Sunday, April 13, one week before the official race.
The Campus School is an integral part of Boston College, providing education for students with challenges such as complex healthcare issues. Though they work with volunteers from neighboring high schools and universities, as well as individuals throughout the Boston area, their main pillar of support is the more than 300-member student group at BC.
Though the official club began in 1996, Schofield explains that the bandits have been around since before then. “That has some history in itself,” says Schofield. “More than 20 years of runners getting together and running for the cause.”
Made up of Campus School group members as well as others in the Boston community, the organization has only seen increased numbers throughout the years, culminating in more than 250 runners last year, who raised more than $70,000 for the school. Though not all Campus School runners participate as bandits, the majority have not received official bibs.
This team is certainly not alone.
Schofield attributes the increase in bandit running to a change in America’s running culture. “Fitness and the overall psyche of America has changed, and more and more people are realizing that it’s something that’s accessible to them, and that they can do it.” He definitely sees this with the team at BC, which continues to grow, and started the year with more than 100 more runners than the year before.
After hearing from countless runners that one of the highlights of their four years at the university was passing Boston College at mile 21, Schofield knew that keeping the tradition alive was important.
And though the Campus School runners won’t be able to participate in the actual race, Schofield is keen to point out that the Boston Athletic Association has been nothing but supportive. “I think that the B.A.A. is getting a bad rap for increasing security and telling bandits that they can’t run this year,” Schofield says. “But they couldn’t have been more gracious with us.”
After the B.A.A. sent a rep to the Campus School to meet with them a few weeks ago, it was clear that with the police presence and the increased number of official runners, Schofield realized that they would not be able to run on the official day. “Our police officers, emergency response teams, and firefighters have to work that much harder,” Schofield explains. “And we didn’t feel comfortable adding to that burden.”
Schofield remains optimistic about the support this weekend. After organizing 14 water stops and cheering sections along the route, including families of students from the Campus School, Schofield is confident that they are prepared for their race. While he doesn’t expect that the thousands of bystanders who turn out every year for the marathon will be present on Sunday, he feels that the runners will feel even more of a connection with the people who do show up. “Hopefully, the runners will be able to say, ‘They’re really coming out to cheer me on,” says Schofield. “It’s going to be different, but there’s going to be that intimacy.”
Schofield also points out that many of the runners are actually happy about the way this worked out. Not only do they get to run the marathon route from start to finish, but they can relax and participate as fans on Marathon Monday.
Though this year’s bandits will face a new set of challenges, their pseudo-marathon this Sunday is a chance to be able to stand with the thousands of others who have run before, and say that they too have run the Boston Marathon. “You can’t race through red lights, and you can’t race through intersections,” Schofield says. “So we know it’s going to be slower paced. But it’s about finishing the race.”
If you would like to join and/or cheer on the Campus School runners at this weekend’s run, they will leave the starting line in Hopkinton at approximately 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 13.