Let’s Put the Pitchforks Down: Thoughts on @Dens & @Chelsa at the Boston Marathon

I ran the Boston Marathon in 2011. Being a slow runner, I will never qualify, and so I ran the race by fundraising for Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I have also run the NYC Marathon eight times – once via the lottery, the other seven times via the “9+1” NYRR program.

I don’t know Chelsa Crowley. I do know Dennis Crowley inasmuch as we’re both active in the NY Tech community and our paths have crossed at various events. Dennis is a well-respected, well-liked, member of the tech “ecosystem” and the leader of one of NYC’s most successful “home-grown” tech start-ups (Foursquare).

I followed closely Dennis’ running of the Boston Marathon last year (2013) on Twitter. Prior to the marathon I exchanged a couple e-mails with him about the race and I was eager to see him do well. I remember very clearly following each of his mile check-ins via Twitter from my desk in New York. It was when there was a long gap from his last check-in at mile 25 that I wondered if maybe he had dropped out of the race or gotten hurt. A moment later a colleague told me about the bombing and soon after this tweet from Dennis appeared followed by a number of others

The circumstances of the bombing are now well known. So too are the circumstances of Dennis and Chelsa’s run last year. Chelsa, the better runner, had just finished the race and was very close to the actual bombing. Dennis was not far behind near the mile 26 marker. 

Dennis is from Boston and was committed to running this year and finishing what he started. Chelsa sought to race with him. Which brings us to what now has its own hashtag, #bibgate.

As we now know, it appears Chelsa did not or was unable to procure a bib but still wanted to run with her husband. She did what many people have done in many marathons – she “bandited” the race. For many reasons, race organizers frown upon this practice (though it’s hardly a mortal sin as was discussed in a Boston Globe opinion piece just this past Sunday, a day before this year’s race). And the photocopy / fake bib is a bit of a new wrinkle. I’m not saying running unregistered, especially in a popular race like Boston, is right. But it happens.

Keep in mind that Chelsa finished last year but Dennis did not. They wanted to finish this year, together, as part of the healing process. That’s a powerful pull to find a way to run together. This is not an excuse, just context, and I get there were probably hundreds of other couples in a similar position.

Some people are wondering why Chelsa didn’t simply do a fundraising bib given she and Dennis are “of means” and could have self-raised the amount themselves. A fair question. 

I’m not looking to make the ends justify the means here. I understand why people are pissed given all that’s transpired. But before the social media maelstrom gets too engorged, let’s give Chelsa and Dennis a moment to make amends. Dennis released a statement this evening on Medium. It sounds like they have something in the works to “make this right.” I’m sure they’ll do something great. Let’s hear what that it is.

So if you want to be angry, especially if you’re a marathon runner like me and know the challenges of getting into popular races, be angry. But maybe we can hold off on the Twitter and Facebook pitchforks for a bit just yet. 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. 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.

AVC.com: Teaching Computer Science To High School Students On The Way To Work


One cause that is important to many of us on the Relay Engineering Team are initiatives to expand CS and, in particular, to #teachkidscode, at public K-12 schools. Not only do we feel that computational thinking is an incredibly valuable skill for all sorts of professions (not just software engineering), but the intersection of education and technology is a natural fit given relaygse’s mission and our specific role in the organization. (Here’s a photo of some of the Relay Engineering team leading a codeorg #HourOfCode event at The #ParkSlope School psms282 this past December).

Our friend fred-wilson has a great post today about the #TEALS program – http://avc.com/2014/04/teaching-computer-science-to-high-school-students-on-the-way-to-work/. As Fred mentions, we’ll be hosting the first of two info sessions at Relay on April 15. By way of background, our CTO, rob-underwood, is a TEALS volunteer this year at Uncommon High School in Crown Heights. Says Fred about this initiative:

I know there are a lot of software engineers in NYC who read this blog. I am very grateful for all that you do for the companies you work for (including many, maybe all, NYC based USV portfolio companies). So it’s hard to ask you to do even more. But I can promise you this. Teaching kids to code is rewarding. It is important. It makes me feel good. And I think it will make you feel good too.

Rob commented on the blog post about his experience saying:

It’s been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to be a TEALS volunteer this school year at UCHS in Crown Heights. Watching the kids grow and grasp important CS and coding concepts is just great. I love going out there.

As Fred says so eloquently this is a critical effort we all need to get behind, both here in NYC and around the country (and globe for that matter). The readers of this blog are busy people with a ton on their plate. But each of us need to each make time to do this. It’s just that important. We make time for the things we value. We need to make time for this.

Relay GSE, and the Relay Engineering Team in particular, are thrilled to be hosting the first TEALS info session on 4/15. We look forward to welcoming you to Relay and continuing to support TEALS, CSNYC, and similar programs that #teachkidscode. We salute the work that folks like Fred, Evan Korth, Cindy Gao, Nathaniel Granor, and Kevin Wang are doing to make this happen.

Finally, in Brooklyn we have had success working through and with local Community Boards (6 in particular) and Community Education Councils [e.g. cec13brooklyn] to advocate for more CS (e.g., more programs like TEALS) in schools. If you’re interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to ping me — I think working with CBs and CECs is something that can be easily replicated throughout the city.

No matter what else you do today, sign up for one of the info sessions and make plans to volunteer for TEALs or a similar program.

We urge you to volunteer for TEALS or another of the many great programs bringing technology, computer science, and coding to public schools. For more info, check out the CSNYC web site and/or TEALS web site. If you’re interested in volunteering but not sure just how to best help, you can submit your info on this CSNYC Google form

We hope to see you at Relay on April 15th!

AVC.com: Teaching Computer Science To High School Students On The Way To Work