More than 3,500 officers will be stationed along the 26.2 mile
course starting in suburban Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and ending
among throngs of spectators at the bars and restaurants of Boylston
Street, where two homemade pressure-cooker bombs ripped through the
crowd last year.
While officials said they are not aware of any specific threat to
the 118th Boston Marathon, one of the world's most prestigious
races, they face a challenge of increasing security without taking a
stance that is so aggressive it drives spectators away, security
"The police have to walk a delicate line between trying to convey to
people that they are safe and not sending the message that, because
of the militarized presence, they have something to fear," said Tom
Nolan, a former Boston Police Department official who now serves as
chairman of the criminal justice department at the State University
of New York at Plattsburgh.
"The public may not necessarily be reassured about their safety when
they see police officers with machine guns and military uniforms and
dogs," Nolan said.
The race, on April 21 this year, is held on the state holiday of
Patriots' Day, when schools as well as some businesses are closed,
and tens of thousands of spectators typically clog the finish line
area. It was there that ethnic Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and
Tamerlan Tsarnaev placed the bombs they carried in black backpacks
last year, prosecutors say.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gun battle with police days after the
attack and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is awaiting trial on charges that carry
the threat of execution, if he is convicted.
Knapsacks and large bags will be banned at the finish line and
police are warning fans to expect checkpoints and inspections as
they approach the course.
"In this world, you never eliminate risk. You never bring it down to
zero. But we are working very hard at reducing the risk," State
Police Colonel Timothy Alben told reporters.
Runners also face new restrictions, including a ban on bags at the
starting line. That is a concern for athletes who in years past
counted on bringing clothing to keep themselves warm while waiting
for the race to start.
Weather conditions in Boston are highly variable in mid-April: While
last year's race saw near-ideal temperatures of 65 degrees
Fahrenheit (18 Celsius), runners in 2007 waited in wind and driving
rain for the chilly 47 F (8 C) start.
"I WANTED TO GO BACK"
With 36,000 participants registered this year — the second-largest
field in Boston Marathon history, with 9,000 more runners than last
year — it means that the last of the race's four waves of
competitors will depart Hopkinton two hours and 45 minutes after the
starter's gun is fired at 8:50 a.m.
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The restrictions have irked some veteran racers.
"The people who caused the problem were not the runners. So security
precautions that affect the runners and make it harder for us to run
a marathon are not really addressing the problem," said Ray
Charbonneau, 52, of Arlington, Massachusetts.
Last year, he crossed the finish line about seven minutes before the
bombs exploded, close enough to see and hear the blasts without
suffering injury. Despite his misgivings, he plans to run his sixth
Boston Marathon next month.
"I never had the slightest doubt that I wanted to go back," said
Charbonneau, who edited a book on last year's race called "The 27th
Race officials have also warned that so-called "bandit" runners, the
unregistered athletes who were tolerated as they ran all or part of
the race in past years, will be pulled off the course this year.
While heightened security along the course and in Boston on race day
will be the obvious change, local and national law enforcement
agencies will also be running down security-related leads ahead of
the race, said Joseph Wippl, a former Central Intelligence Agency
official who now serves as a professor of international relations at
"Any intelligence on anybody in the area and I'm sure the FBI or
local law enforcement will pay them a visit," Wippl said.
Even with additional security, some runners admit to safety
Andrew Duffy, will be among a group of Boston University runners
honoring Chinese exchange student Lu Lingzi, one of the three people
killed by the blasts.
Duffy, who met his wife around the time he ran his first Boston
Marathon in 1995, said strong personal memories brought him back but
he acknowledged he has asked his family to stay away from the finish
line on race day.
"I talked to my wife about that just today," Duffy said. "We have
three kids and everything, and I'm a little hesitant about having
them around the finish area."
(Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Gunna Dickson)
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