A blog by runners. For runners.

The aftermath of Boston: how races are increasing security

Like most runners, I felt a lot of emotions on April 15. But fear wasn’t one of them. I knew I’d race again and so I did. I ran the Long Branch Half Marathon only a couple weeks after Boston.

In the days leading up to the race, I received a lot of emails from the race director. The NJ Marathon/ Long Branch Half was increasing security a lot. But I didn’t think much of it. I thought I’d follow the rules and race day would be the same as always.

The new normal

But it wasn’t. We were only allowed to check our clear, race-issued bags. The police presence was the furthest thing from discreet. The sound of helicopters flying overhead for the first few miles of the race was eerie. And the finish line was sparse – spectators were not in the same finish area as runners. Spectators noticed the changes, too. My dad was trying to meet up with me after the race when he accidentally entered a “runners only” area – he was surrounded by cops within seconds.

I should mention that none of these security measures bothered me in the slightest. It was just different. The new normal of racing. The increased security is in place to protect participants, race staff and volunteers, and our dear spectators, so I’ll take it.

In fact, most big races have amped up security in the wake of the Boston tragedy. Race directors are trying to keep it balanced though – they want to take enough precautions so that we’re all protected but without overdoing it. Here is what to expect at some popular marathons this fall:

  • The Chicago Marathon will no longer allow people to pick up race bibs for other participants. You have to go to the expo yourself to get your bib.

  • The Marine Corps Marathon requests that all runners arrive two hours before their start time so they have enough time to go through the security checkpoint, check their bags, and line up in assigned corrals.

  • The New York City Marathon is beefing up security all over, including behind the scenes. Race participants can expect pat downs at check-in, staff and volunteers will have more intense identification procedures, and there will be bigger police presence including bomb sniffing dogs.

Help race day go smoothly

As participants, it’s imperative that we do our part to help race day go as smoothly as possible:

  • Read all race updates. Check your email, the race’s website, and Facebook page. Instructions can change up until the last minute.

  • Encourage your spectators to read updates, too. Ask your spectators to read the policies. They may not be allowed to bring bags or strollers along the course, for example. Ask them to study the map and arrange to meet them in a certain area post-race.

  • Follow the rules. Remember, these security measures are in place to protect us – not to make things difficult for us. If a volunteer or officer asks to do something, do it. Arguing won’t get you anywhere.

Runners, have you noticed more security at races? What are your thoughts?

Written by Jen Matz.