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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Foursquare Chief Apologizes for Wife’s Fake Boston Marathon Bib

A co-founder of Foursquare, a popular location-sharing mobile app, issued an online apology after an investigation of unauthorized runners in the Boston Marathon found that his wife had used a fake bib to participate in the race last Monday.

Dennis Crowley, the Foursquare co-founder and chief executive, and his wife, Chelsa Crowley, made the joint apology after a Massachusetts woman, Kathy Brown, told a Boston television station that she had realized from photos that Ms. Crowley had used her number to run the 118th marathon.

The apology did little to quell an intense reaction to the incident on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, where it was given the hashtag “bibgate.”

In a statement on the website Medium, the couple wrote: “It’s clear that both Chelsa and I lost perspective on how our actions could be hurtful to others. What we did was wrong and we’re sorry. Our biggest regret is that our actions have overshadowed the event for those who ran and ran to honor others.”

Mr. Crowley, who grew up just outside Boston in Medway, vowed to “work to make this right, but out of the public eye.”

Unauthorized runners known as “bandits” are a constant in races like the Boston Marathon, which annually draws tens of thousands of runners who have qualified in other races or signed up to run for a charity. But their presence last Monday among the 35,000 runners who participated touched a nerve because of the marathon’s heightened symbolic significance a year after two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and wounding more than 260. A moment of silence was held at 2:49 for the victims and survivors of the 2013 attack.

Organizers vowed to crack down on bandits this year, and the Boston Athletic Association said it was investigating multiple reports of unauthorized runners, emphasizing that they went through the same security checkpoints as registered runners.

Wearing another person’s bib number, which allows a bandit to avoid registering and paying fees for the race, violates race rules, and impostors risk being kicked out of the marathon and banned from future events if they are caught. More important, runners and nonrunners said on social media, it’s just plain cheating.

Ms. Brown, of Framingham, Mass. saw Ms. Crowley wearing her bib number, 34033, when she went to look at her official marathon pictures, she said. The impostor had written a Twitter handle â€" @chelsa, which belongs to Ms. Crowley â€" below the fake bib, Ms. Brown told WCVB.

In a comment below the WCVB report, Mr. Crowley said he had apologized to Ms. Brown in an email and offered his “sincerest apologies to anyone we offended or disrespected,” including the race organizers and the police, fire and emergency crews “that worked so hard to make sure Monday’s race was safe for all runners.”

Some people had a hard time accepting Mr. Crowley’s apology, arguing that he had confessed the forgery only after it was discovered. They pointed to a photo Ms. Crowley had posted of herself on Instagram a day earlier with the caption: “Heading to DC for Nike Women’s Half Marathon and strategizing on how to even out my tan lines from #Boston.”

The user @arianneroxa pleaded, “Please consider the message that this photograph and caption sends. You’re better than this.”

Ms. Crowley was not the only bandit unmasked after Monday’s marathon.

Michael Sullivan discovered another man wearing his bib number, 10055. When Kara Bonneau spotted four impostors wearing her bib number, 14285, she posted their photos to the Boston Marathon Facebook page. Two of the runners were later identified as former Boston College cross-country athletes.

Mr. Crowley explained that the couple had forged his wife’s bib so that they could complete the marathon together this year, after getting separated during the 2013 race. When the bombs went off, Ms. Crowley â€" who was then Ms. Skees; the couple married in October â€" was receiving her medal at the finish line while Mr. Crowley was still running.

He was able to get a number this year because he did not finish last year. The couple decided to make the fake bib after trying unsuccessfully to get a number for Ms. Crowley, he said.

“We both felt like we needed to run again and finish together to get closure,” he said.

The Crowleys did not seem to have made much of an effort to hide the ruse, and the fake bib is clearly visible in photos posted to Instagram and Twitter before, during and after the race. After Mr. Crowley posted a photo on Twitter of him with his wife before the race, Ms. Crowley responded “shh!!” to someone who asked if her bib was fake.

Critics said the Crowleys’ actions smacked of arrogance and entitlement.

Several users said they had gone as far as leaving the Foursquare app because of the Crowleys.

But others came to the couple’s defense, shrugging off the criticism as overblown. The couple had a compelling motivation, they said, and they owned up to their misbehavior.

“Good on you for apologising and taking accountability. Wanting to finish the race together doesn’t steal anything from anyone,” the user @samakbari wrote on Instagram.

Writing on Tumblr, Rob Underwood of Brooklyn advised fellow runners to “put the pitchforks down” and take a wait-and-see-approach:

“I am guessing this will turn out to be one of those circumstances where an error in judgement (which this undoubtedly was) could turn into something positive for all,” he wrote. “And maybe when that happens we’ll all feel better about ourselves having let the vitriol go un-typed and un-shared, and instead having let a mistake be resolved and made right on its own by the people at the center of this.”