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Ashley Hickey/MEDILL

On Sunday, this intersection -- Monroe and Columbus -- could possibly be the most secure spot in Chicago: the starting point for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Runners on Friday were checking out parts of the course, as police and event organizers prepared heightened security measures.

At marathon, police drill down on safety so runners can focus on race

by Ashley Hickey
Oct 10, 2013

This weekend’s Chicago Marathon will be unlike any other in the event’s 36-year history.

Sunday’s race marks the first major U.S. marathon since the Boston Marathon in which two pressure cooker bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 250.

The significance of the race has prompted heightened security measures from Chicago police and the race’s sponsor, Bank of America.

“There are no known threats to Chicago,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday, but police and marathon organizers are taking no chances when it comes to protecting the 45,000 runners and the 1.7 million people expected to come out for Sunday’s event.

Unlike prior years, runners must pick up their own participant packets, which include a bib number and a clear plastic bag to hold any personal items. It is the only bag runners will be permitted to bring with them Sunday.

Any individuals entering Grant Park on race day will pass through one of four designated security and bag-screening checkpoints and are discouraged from carrying any bags, which will slow up pedestrian flow into the park.

Only participants displaying official event bib numbers, credentialed event staff and ticketed guests will be allowed near the start and finish line areas.

Everyone else will be restricted to watching from elsewhere on the course and can meet runners after the race at a designated area in Grant Park’s Butler Field.

David Parkinson, 28, of New York said Sunday’s race will be his 11th marathon, but his first since completing April’s Boston Marathon, about 90 minutes ahead of the attacks.

He said he is not fazed by his last marathon experience or the elevated security measures in place for this race.

“I don’t think any of the changes are going to affect my experience on race day,” Parkinson said. “I’m not particularly worried. I view what happened in Boston as a pretty isolated incident.”

Parkinson said he is glad the city is taking these precautions, but he is focusing squarely on the race.

“There’s enough to be nervous about with how the race is going to go as a runner without worrying about external things too,” Parkinson said.

Measures such as fencing around Grant Park and bomb-sniffing dogs will be apparent to anyone in the race area Sunday. Less visible will be surveillance technology and security agents from local and federal agencies along the 26-mile course.

“We’re going to have eyes on the ground on just about every foot of the marathon route,” McCarthy said. “We actually reached out to our federal partners, including the Secret Service, FBI, you name it.”

He said the additional personnel allows for an immediate response to any potential incident.

“Packages and suspicious behavior will be addressed,” McCarthy said. “That’s probably the best way to put it.”