Unregistered runners — or bandits — are a part of the Boston Marathon’s history, and a common way for Emerson runners to participate in the 26.2-mile feat. While the Boston Athletic Association, the organization that puts on the race, has historically looked the other way as these numberless athletes trotted by, this year it will be cracking down on bandits as part of the increased security following last year’s bombings.
Marc Davis, the communications manager at the BAA, said those who are not officially registered in the marathon will not be allowed to participate. According to the organization’s website, runners who cannot show a registered bib number risk being removed from the course.
Despite the unprecedented challenges of running unregistered in the April 21 marathon, junior journalism major Brendan Scully said he will be lacing up his sneakers.
“I’ll be cautious,” said Scully. “Bandit runners are the spirit of the marathon. I don’t believe they’re adding a challenge to security.”
Scully didn’t finish the race last year when he ran with Christian Bergren-Aragon, a junior journalism major. They were at mile 24 when the bombs went off at the finish line. Scully’s been training since last year to run in the 118th marathon with Bergren-Aragon, and this time they want to finish.
“I ran last year as a personal feat,” said Scully. “But this year it’s my contribution to Boston. I’ll be running off the emotions.”
Bergren-Aragon said he has been running the Boston Marathon for the past two years, unregistered, and has been training for his third one this year.
“I train just as hard as anyone else who runs the marathon,” he said. “It was a little disappointing to find out that [the BAA wasn’t] allowing bandits to run.”
The marathon is at full capacity this year with 36,000 runners, according to the BAA’s website — 9,000 more than last year, 4,000 of whom couldn’t complete the race in 2013.
To keep runners and spectators safe, the BAA’s new security policies include restrictions on the size and type of bag runners can carry, and prohibitions — no costumes, nothing baggy, and nothing covering the face.
More than 3,500 police officers will be deployed, twice as many as last year, according to the BAA’s website. There will also be undercover officers, private security contractors, numerous checkpoints with metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, and hundreds of surveillance cameras.
John Furey, who coaches Emerson’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams, and trains Boston Marathon charity runners, said he thinks most people will respect the new security measures. He said the majority of the runners he knows who have previously run as bandits are watching from the sidelines this year.
“There’s more understanding than disappointment,” said Furey. “Hopefully down the road they’ll return.”
Emerson cross-country runner Matthew Lavallee said he planned on running this year, but when the announcement was made about enforcing the restrictions on bandits, he changed his mind.
“The only thing holding me back is the risk of some sort of punishment,” said the freshman visual and media arts major. “It’s tough. A lot of people are disappointed, but it’s to the benefit of public safety.”
For Scully, participating in this race is a symbol that trumps any consequences he might face.
“There’s an increased spirit in the marathon this year,” said Scully. “And part of this spirit is carried by the bandits who run not to win, but simply for the love of participating in the Boston Marathon, and to show that the city’s people are strong.”
Junior marketing communication major Emily Engelhardt was at the finish line last year cheering on Scully, Bergren-Aragon, and other Emerson runners.
When the second bomb went off, she suffered a severe concussion that lasted five months, and had bruised and swollen limbs. One Fund Boston, an organization created to help the victims of the marathon bombings, gave Engelhardt two entries to run this year, she said.
Engelhardt is running with a friend, but said she is disappointed about the increased restrictions on bandits that might keep others who want to run from joining. She said she can’t imagine Scully and Bergren-Aragon not running this year.
“I think it’s really unfortunate,” said Engelhardt. “What’s the harm in letting someone run if all they have on their body is a shirt, shorts, shoes, and a phone, and they want to run 26.2 miles?”
Bergren-Aragon said as long as bandits are being respectful, responsible, and remain part of the pack, there shouldn’t be safety concerns.
“When something terrible like this happens,” said Bergren-Aragon about last year’s blasts, “you come out in more numbers and show them that you are not going to be affected by it.”
News editor Laura Gomez contributed to this report.
An earlier version of this article stated that Emily Engelhardt was injured by the first bomb blast. Engelhardt was injured by the second explosion.