FIVE AT THE FINISH
Boston Marathon runner No. 14285 crossed the finish line on April 21.
And, presumably, again. Although maybe not.
Two days later, Duke University analyst Kara Bonneau went to the MarathonFoto website to check out images from her victorious run of three hours, 31 minutes and 41 seconds.
She was stunned to see that the first photograph wasn’t of her.
In fact, of the nearly 100 photos associated with her number, less than two dozen were of her.
“At first I thought it was mistagged,” Bonneau said. “I kept scrolling down. Sure enough, all four other people had an identical bib to mine.”
The other Nos. 14285 were two men and two women. The men, according to The Heights student newspaper at Boston College, appear to be two former runners from the BC men’s cross-country team.
The men and one of the women are shown in images attributed to Bonneau’s bib number, happily holding up their finisher medals in Boston. It’s not clear whether the fourth “bandit” runner crossed the line or picked up her medal.
The 34-year-old Durham resident didn’t get her bib until she arrived in Boston on Saturday. It was her second time running the marathon. In 2013, she was only a few blocks away from Boylston Street when a pair of backpack bombs exploded near the finish line.
“I wanted to go back and support the city,” Bonneau said. “That’s why I went back this year.”
Saturday night, she posted a photo of her bib on social media.
“It didn’t occur to me that someone might use my photo to forge a bib and run the race,” she said.
But, apparently, they did.
“It’s definitely disconcerting to know there’s an unknown number of people making counterfeit bibs and getting into the race,” Bonneau said.
Bandit runners in the Boston Marathon are a sort of tradition, but they’ve normally run without numbers, remained at the back of the pack and turned off before reaching Boylston so they couldn’t take a medal.
They were banned from this year’s marathon by the Boston Athletic Association, however, as an extra security precaution stemming from the 2013 bombing.
The BAA strictly forbids using someone else’s number and announced last week that it is investigating reports similar to Bonneau’s. Notably, Chelsey Crowley, wife of Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley, participated with a counterfeit bib using another runner’s number.
Dennis Crowley apologized on a TV station website, saying that he wanted to run the marathon this year because they got separated last year when the bombs went off.
Bonneau complained about her situation to the BAA. At first, she said, officials told her that there wasn’t much they could do.
Then she posted a collage of the four runners who used her number to Twitter and Facebook. That’s when social media, which seemed to start her problems, helped give her complaint some traction.
“It got a big response of outrage among runners,” she said. “A lot of people expressed shock that this would even happen.”
The BAA has started a review process before issuing official results for the 32,000 finishers. The process may take several weeks, according to a news release from the BAA.
“Among the BAA’s clearly stated rules for official participants in the Boston Marathon, runners receive instruction on multiple occasions that bibs may not be altered in any way, and they are not transferable or exchangeable,” the release stated. “No one may wear the bib number belonging to another, official entrant.”
Violators may be banned from future marathons.
Bonneau’s not letting the cheaters wreck her memory of the marathon.
“I had a great experience,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that this happened, but I think it was a good discussion for the running community to have.”
She doesn’t plan to go back, though. Nothing personal against Boston, she said, it’s just that she’s trying to run a marathon in every state.
“I’m trying not to repeat,” Bonneau said.
She’ll run a marathon in Vermont in June.
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