Marathon organizers across the country are reevaluating security measures following the attacks in Boston, but the races will go on.
“No one’s backing down, that’s for sure,” said Jack Staph, president of the Cleveland Marathon, Inc., who added he has spoken to other marathon organizers since the attack. “We will do everything possible to protect our runners and spectators.”
The biggest security challenges race organizers face is securing an entire 26.2-mile course as well as the crowded finish line area, Staph said.
“It’s definitely difficult to have eyes and ears on every spectator who comes through,” said Joan Freese, the marathon’s race coordinator.
Freese said there’s a possibility the Cleveland marathon would use bomb-sniffing dogs, and organizers would likely be more stringent with checking individuals’ credentials.
One of the first marathons to be held following the attacks in Boston will be the Salt Lake City Marathon on Saturday. Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said security plans have been months in the making, but the situation is ongoing.
“We already have a security plan in place,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been preparing months for … [but] a lot of it is still developing.”
Since the attacks in Boston, Burbank said his staff has “constantly been getting updates” from authorities in Boston and the FBI. Security measures will be “driven by information” and will likely be in flux up until Saturday morning, depending on the information available about the Boston attacks, he said. Policing the marathon in the past has taken three-fourths of the Salt Lake City police staff as well as agencies in other municipalities in previous years. “It’s a big undertaking,” he said.
“This is a sporting event, not a security event,” Burbank said. Although there will be an elevated police presence in Salt Lake City, he hopes people will still be able to enjoy themselves. “Nothing is 100% secure. Security measures are put in place to limit or reduce our exposure to risk,” he said, adding the public’s vigilance is important to assisting law enforcement.
The London marathon will be held Sunday, and organizers said the race will go on as previously scheduled and begin with a 30-second moment of silence. Runners will also be given a black ribbon they will be encouraged to wear, “as a show of solidarity.”
“We have reviewed and will continue to review our security arrangements with the Metropolitan Police and other authorities,” London marathon organizers said in a statement. “We are being fully supported in all aspects of the event to safeguard our runners, spectators, volunteers and everyone connected to the event.”
Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon organizers said plans for their race, which is scheduled for April 28, will be made when more information about the attacks in Boston becomes available.
“We will never put the race in front of public safety and that decision will be made jointly in the coming days,” said Kari Watkins, executive director of the OKC National Memorial & Museum, in a statement. “Today, we will keep working toward race day of April 28th.”
Mayor Mick Cornett, in a statement, said, “suspicion over who might be behind this attack and how that might be related to Oklahoma City” are two factors Oklahoma City would take into consideration if they do not hold their race.
In New York City, Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners, said organizers for the New York Marathon and other races “will continue to work hand in hand with the City of New York and the NYPD as we plan for upcoming events.”