This article was contributed by Brad Lyon: GBMSL Umpire-in-Chief (2002)

There has been a question that has arisen this week as to how many bases a batter/ runner can advance after a walk or dropped third strike.

 
Here is my rule interpretation, based Rule 8, Section 8 (Runner is out), Subsec. U, clauses 1, 2 and Note in the rulebook.
Here is the rule:
8.8 (u) "When a runner is legitimately off his base after a pitch or the result of a batter completing his turn at bat while the pitcher has the ball within the 2.5 metre radius of the pitcher's plate, he must immediately attempt to advance to the next base or immediately return to his base. (That, I think is fairly well understood. The runner has a couple of seconds to make a decision on which way he is going, he can't dance between bases, unless the pitcher makes a play on him.)
(1) Failure to immediately proceed to the next base or return to his base once the pitcher has the ball within the 2.5 m radius of the pitcher's plate shall result in the runner being declared out. (That's pretty simple. Rule of thumb is a couple of seconds to make the decision which way the runner is going.)
(2) Once the runner returns to a base for any reason, he shall be declared out if he leaves said base, unless a play is made on him or another runner (a fake throw is considered a play) or the pitcher no longer has possession of the ball in the 2.5 m radius or the pitcher releases the ball as a pitch to the batter. (The pitcher simply looking at the runner is not considered a play. There must be a physical action that indicates a play or attempted play, which is why a fake throw is included. )
NOTE: A base on balls or dropped third strike in which the runner is entitled to run is treated the same as a batted ball. The batter-runner may continue past first base and is entitled to run toward second base as long as he does not stop at first base. If he stops after he rounds first base, then he must comply with Sec. 8 u (1). (This seems to be where the problem is. A batter-runner in this situation is entitled to advance or attempt to advance to 1B. The B-R is allowed to try for second, as outlined in the Note.)

Note from Doug Cundall- Softball Ontario Deputy UIC (2005)---- as long as the runner does not stop more than once with no "play" being made on them then they can advance as far as they are brave enough to try for.  As soon as a play - fake throw, actual throw, pitcher running at them, etc. - is made then you disregard the 8 foot circle rule and the runner is fair game for a tag out but they must be played upon to be out..

 

 
That having been said, I would like to issue an admonishment to coaches: if you have a runner called out for leadoff in this situation, don't bother filing a protest. It will come down to the umpire's judgement as to whether a play/ attempt was made, and if the ump says there was no play made, that is his/her judgment and not protestable.