With just days until the 36th Chicago Marathon, both runners and spectators are gearing up for heightened security at Sunday's race.
Though race officials don't specifically reference the Boston Marathon bombings in the 2013 updates to race security, the April tragedy that killed three people is still fresh in the minds of police, organizers and runners.
Security will be tighter at Sunday's race on account of five new changes:
No Packet Pick-Up Proxies: In years past, runners could send someone like a family member to pick up their racing bib and marathon packet at the Friday-Saturday expo at McCormick Place. This year, however, entrants will have to show up in person to claim their bib, chip and other necessities.
Clear Bag It: Runners can only bring materials that fit into a clear, plastic event-issued "Participant Bag" to the starting line. Previously, runners could bring just about anything -- spare clothes, food, electronics, keys -- in whatever bag or luggage they wished and check it at the starting corral for pick-up after the race.
Just Like The Airport -- Long Security Lines: Though marathon participants have always been subject to a quick once-over bag check, this year runners will only be able to get into the starting point at Grant Park after passing through one of four designated security and bag screening checkpoints off of Michigan Avenue. Runners who opt to skip bringing a bag at all can speed through express lines.
Check, Please: Spectators will have to go through bag screening and checkpoints to access the "reunion" area in Grant Park's Butler Field. Additionally, DNAinfo Chicago reports Chicago police will be checking spectators' backpacks around the race route, as they did during the Chicago Blackhawks championship rally earlier this summer.
Smell Test: Though the marathon officials make no mention of their presence on the course, police say they plan to use bomb-sniffing dogs along the marathon route Sunday.
Despite the heightened security, officials say not all of the changes will be obvious.
"The covert things you won't see are the undercovers that are going to be in the crowd," said Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. "We will have a strong uniform and undercover presence along the route in the crowd because it’s an awful big route to police."
The CPD's Bureau of Patrol deputy chief also told the Tribune officers will monitor the city's network of more than 20,000 security cameras on race day.
The marathon's executive director Carey Pinkowski told CBS Chicago the city's ability to handle large-scale outdoor events like Lollapalooza and the Blackhawks rally inspire plenty of confidence that race day will be both smooth and secure.
"The city of Chicago is very good at producing events, and they work so well, and integrate so well for safe and secure events," Pinkowski said. “We’re looking forward to a safe, secure, and memorable race experience.”
Runners, meanwhile, seem equally optimistic even in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
"I thought it was such a fluke, so unlikely to occur (again)," Evanston native John Schroeder told the Tribune. Schroeder, 50, finished the Boston Marathon when he heard bombs exploding, and he still plans to run in Chicago on Sunday.
"Those guys, if they want anything, want people to be afraid. So I would say, 'Screw them.' Just go and trust that nothing bad will happen."
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