Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley has been forced to publicly apologize after fact came to light that his wife Chelsa Crowley ran the 2014 Boston Marathon last week with a fake bib (#34033).
Bandits running the race has been a long time tradition for the Boston Marathon but after the bombing a year ago race directors sought to crack down on the practice where runners, who haven’t qualified for the race, run the course, drink fluids, add more burden on volunteers, and accept a medal (a true bandit would never accept a medal).
The ruse went well with Dennis and Chelsa posting photos on Twitter and elsewhere celebrating their matching Boston finishes until the rightful holder of Bib #34033, Kathy Brown, went onto Marathon Foto to check out her official race photos from the race. Upon viewing the photos for her bib # she was shocked to discover there was another #34033 that looked nothing like her.
And almost as if from an episode of America’s Dumbest Criminals, Brown quickly noticed that the other #34033 had her Twitter handle @chelsa written on a piece of paper and attached to her bib.
Brown expressed her outrage upon figuring it all out, “I put that work in and it wasn’t fair that someone else didn’t have to do that. That was my first thought.”
Brown told Team 5 Investigates she was stunned to see that a woman wearing a bib with her number. It’s a number she said she earned by following the rules and raising money to fight multiple sclerosis, a disease that claimed her uncle’s life.
This is just one instance of several stories and photos involving fake bibs from Boston that have appeared on the internet over the past few days.
But with Chelsa we have photo proof of the fraudulent bib, a Tweet confessing as much, and an apology now from her husband, Dennis.
And sometimes there is more to the story that might not justify the reason but at least help explain the logic and thinking of that person and why they did what they did.
Dennis has come out and apologized for his wife using the fake bib to gain entry to run the Boston Marathon.
The short version of story is that they both legally ran the race together last year when the bombing took place. Chelsa finished moments before the bomb went off while Dennis was stopped miles back and not allowed to finish. He was given a guaranteed entry for the 2014 race because he wasn’t allowed to finish. Chelsa was not given a guaranteed entry into 2014 because she finished the 2013 marathon before the bombing. She did not qualify or otherwise, via charity/sponsor, gain an official entry into the 2014 race. Dennis wanted to finish the Boston marathon this year with his wife by his side.
“Yes, using a duplicate number to get Chelsa into the starting corral with me was wrong,” Dennis wrote. “I don’t expect everyone to understand our strong need to run and finish together — but after trying unsuccessfully to get a charity number and trying unsuccessfully to officially transfer a number from an injured-runner friend, we did what we could to make sure we could run together in hopes of finishing together.”
“I sent an email to Kathy Brown, the woman who rightfully earned #34033 to apologize for any disrespect, hurt feelings or confusion,” he said. “Our intent was never to ‘steal’ anything from anyone — our intent was to finish the Boston Marathon together as we tried to do last year.”
“Again, sincerest apologies to anyone we offended or disrespected, including the [Boston Athletic Association] and the police/fire/EMT crews that worked so hard to make sure Monday’s race was safe for all runners,” he wrote and signed the letter on behalf of his wife.
A lot worse things happen in the world. I often hear of a lot worse things that runners do during a race. However, it’s against the rules and will truly upset a lot of people. The race has a strong and almost acknowledged, turn the other cheek, of bandits over the years. The Crowley’s are probably just too smart and tried to make it look too real and legit. That in addition to security tightening up and warnings from the BAA that it intended to use strict enforcement this year to keep bandits at bay for security reasons.
The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) is investigating Chelsa’s fraudulent bib along with many others and will eventually render a decision that will likely be a lifetime ban from the Boston Marathon and BAA events.
Naturally, upset runners are laying into them both and especially Chelsa as you can see in this Twitter feed HERE.
Everyone makes mistakes. She isn’t the first bandit to run the Boston Marathon and won’t be the last. Thousands have done it over the years including someone you very likely know. The couple has apologized via Dennis and hopefully most can forgive them both and appreciate their coming forward and owning it. And perhaps it would hold a very public lesson to others to not do the same in the future.
However, another issue that comes into play is liability. If she were, Lord forbid, die or pass out or go into cardiac arrest during the race then volunteers, medics, ambulance and resources would be used and taken away from perhaps another runner that is facing similar medical need. Insurance for the race I would assume would only cover runners that are officially registered participants. I doubt if she had broke her leg she would have told paramedics to leave her alone that she was merely a bandit. It opens up a wide range of issues, mostly not good, when banditing happens. The BAA, like MLB during the steroid era, has just been too lax and accepting of it over the years and it won’t cease or be corrected instantaneously. The public embarrassment alone will likely teach many a lesson, but I’m sure there were hundreds more that ran without a bib or numbers that didn’t replicate official participants.
And with that said I believe there is an obligation on big races (outside of Boston) that are charging exorbitant entry fees to allow runners the option to defer up to a certain date or transfer their bib to another runner legally for a nominal transfer fee. Most banditing or illegal bib use happens simply from a financial perspective for many money strapped runners that paid a lot of money for a bib then can’t run due to injury or family obligations. So they will often illegally sell it at a discount to help recoup some of that cost and the purchaser is then able to get into a race that closed months ago. If the larger races can ease the transfer of bibs pre-race up to a certain date then it will likely help decrease the number of bandits and illegal bibs at races.
Earlier this week on social media we learned of another Boston Marathoner, Kara Bonneau, who much like Kathy Brown, logged onto Marathon Foto to check out her photos and found FOUR other runners photographed wearing HER bib #14285 (which is quickly become the most popular 5 digit race bib of all-time.)
Almost Thomas Crown comical at that point. All that was missing were the suits and top hats.