This Sunday in Central Park, New York, there is a 5 mile race. I will be racing it. I have not, however, paid for it.
This will be my second “illegal” run. The first was a 15k, also in Central Park, in which I PR’ed (not hard, since it was my first 15k) and placed third in my age group. Unfortunately, as I had not signed up for the race, I did not receive a nice glass trophy for placing in my age group. Dumb karma.
But clearly I have not learned from this unlucky irony, as I am doing the same thing again this weekend. But it got me wondering about racing without paying and the moral issues involved. I’m no lawyer, so I don’t know the legal issues, although I am sure they exist.
It comes down to what we pay for when we sign up for a race. But what is that, exactly? Is it the use of the trail/streets or my use of their beverage stations and other services?
And if I don’t run in the corralled-off section of the trail designated for the race, and I don’t drink from the water stops or grab a post-race bagel (this is New York, so it’s quite tempting), is it morally (and legally) acceptable to not pay? I mean, if you choose to run in a park arbitrarily, and discover that there’s a race going on, I’m sure most people would have no qualms with pacing off some of those racers to get a better workout.
But is going out of my way to be among these racers just as innocent? On the other hand, the New York Road Runners do not own Central Park (as far as I know), and even if they “rent” a section of the trails for the race, I can surely run in the non-race section, right?
So many open questions. But I do have a few facts at my disposable, and they are:
1) The race cost about $40 when I checked last week
2) I did not like that the race cost $40
3) When I checked again this week the race was closed out
4) I want to race
To my mind, that leaves only one available option: race illegally.
To appease my conscience, I will take as little water as possible from the water stops, run outside the race markers, and enjoy no post-race snacks.
Worth it? I’ll find out Sunday.