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New advertising ploy runs afoul of marathon

Incident raises security worry

Police arrested the usual suspects during the Boston Marathon for public drinking, but they also confronted a new problem: a man who ran onto the race course to advertise an Internet television station.

Kurt Belhumeur, 23, will be arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court on charges of disorderly conduct, said David Procopio, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office

Belhumeur said he was walking down Newbury Street on Monday when a band of guerrilla marketers approached him and offered $50 if he would go onto the runners' course wearing a sandwich board inscribed with the logo of ManiaTV!. Belhumeur, a courier from Beverly, said he ran down an alley, a side street, and then onto Boylston Street to join a pack of marathon runners. Officers grabbed him and took him off the route.

''They just made it seem like it wasn't a big deal," Belhumeur said of representatives from ManiaTV! ''It's sort of a fair deal in the sense you're going to advertise and they're going to pay you. . . . But I totally feel like I got a little bit used."

The incident is also creating a new worry for race organizers.

Guy Morse, the executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the race, said yesterday that while he was unaware of the incident, he is disturbed that marketers were able to get on the course.

''It troubles me from a public safety perspective first and foremost," Morse said. ''Our first priority is the safety of the runner and that the runners have a safe course on which to compete."

A ManiaTV! official said it recruited people to advertise during the marathon but that it had them sign releases and did not want them to get in the way of the runners. ''We had created an innocent, fun little PR event that was supposed to run next to the Boston Marathon. They were specifically told to not impede the race," said Kevin Staunton, the director of business development for ManiaTV!

''They were supposed to run alongside it through the crowds. But what I understand is that Kurt got over the barrier and had the issues with the security there."

Belhumeur said the company's workers rounded up about 50 people by offering free T-shirts, stickers, and soft drinks.

''They told us: 'No touching runners, no causing a scene, and we talked to our lawyers beforehand. We don't think there's a problem," Belhumeur recalled yesterday. ''It was supposed to be in good humor, I guess. I thought it was kind of funny, which is I guess why I did it."

Morse said he is not sure how the marathon can improve security for future races. He added that protecting the 26.2-mile course is ''pure and simply a police matter. The rules this year are the same as last year and that is: The course is closed other than to runners."

Police spokesman John Boyle said the incident will be reviewed and considered when the department puts together its plan for next year's marathon.

Morse said he is also concerned that what he called ''ambush marketers" other than the marathon's official sponsors would take advantage of the race.

''The companies that sponsor our event frown upon anyone who would attempt to take advantage of the event when there's no official association with that company," Morse said.

Morse said he has heard of similar marketing during other big-city marathons.

But Howard Kambara, one of the organizers of the Chicago Marathon, said that while ambush marketing is a problem, he has never heard of anyone making his or her way onto the Chicago course. ''That sounds pretty extreme," he said.

Kambara said the Chicago Marathon's organizers have had problems with marketers standing at the finish line and giving away products, as well as with marketers not affiliated with the event making signs.

''You don't want anyone impeding the flow of anyone's race."

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