SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 7, 2014

On The Run: New security measures will give Boston Marathon a different look

On the Run
Jay Kumar

---- — With six weeks to go until the 118th Boston Marathon, local runners are braving the arctic weather to get those long runs in, raise funds for charity, and doing their best to ward off injuries and the nasty cold and flu bugs that are rampant right now.

But another concern that has emerged involves Marathon Monday itself. Given last year’s bombing near the finish line, marathon organizers are taking unprecedented security measures this year.

The Boston Athletic Association (BAA), which organizes the marathon, announced recently that it will no longer allow runners to bring bags on buses from Boston to Hopkinton and that there will be no baggage transport buses to take runners’ belongings to the finish area. Bags will also not be allowed in certain areas at or near the start in Hopkinton, at or near the finish in Boston, or along the course.

Runners will be able to check gear on Boston Common on the morning of the marathon, using an official clear plastic bag provided by the BAA at number pickup. The bag must be left at the gear check area on the Common before boarding a BAA shuttle bus to the start. Of course, many runners don’t use those buses and just head straight to Hopkinton, so not everyone will be able to use take advantage of the gear check.

The new guidelines will be challenging, said Sue Quimby of Middleton, who will be running her fourth Boston and fifth marathon overall.

“The new baggage rules are definitely going to be problematic, especially if it’s inclement weather. I am lucky that I have a warm bus to sit on before the race, but thousands sit outside in the elements for the 2-3 hours that we all have to wait,” she said. “Runners from out of town who are staying in Boston can use the Boston Common bag drop, but local runners usually get transportation straight to Hopkinton. I am most concerned with post-race and not having warm, dry clothes to change into or my cell phone, which is too cumbersome to run with.”

Quimby understands why the guidelines were put in place. “I have complete confidence in race officials and local law enforcement who believe this change is necessary,” she said. “This has come about after 10 months of serious thought and discussions. I am willing to suffer some inconveniences for the greater safety of everyone and hopefully everyone else feels the same way. We are marathoners, after all — we thrive on adversity.”

Last year on Marathon Monday, Thor Kirleis of North Reading ran a double marathon: He ran the course in reverse from 5:15 to 9:15 a.m. and then ran the regular route, finishing about an hour before the explosions went off. This year, he’s sticking with a more conventional mode and “just” running from Hopkinton to Boston, which make it his 10th Boston Marathon in a row and 14th total (and possibly his 100th marathon overall). Kirleis is nonplussed by the new guidelines.

“New security measures on the surface seem more a nuisance, especially for runners, but more thought reveals they aren’t so bad for runners and spectators,” he said. “For runners, it means more throwaway clothes so that we can stay warm throughout the morning in Hopkinton as we await the start. It also means bringing along a throwaway fanny pack with pre-race nutrition and perhaps carrying a bottle of water to stay fueled and hydrated. This also forces us to make decisions up front on race gear. No more obsessing over what to wear. For those nervous-type runners, perhaps this is a good thing.”

The greater impact may be on those watching the race, he noted. “For spectators, although security measures may seem extreme, I believe they are needed to help not only ensure a safe event but to also ease safety fears in people’s minds, which is probably the most important part in a return to normalcy,” said Kirleis. “These new policies tell the world that even though we have been knocked down, we will stand back up, stare terror in the eye, and place one foot in front of the other to run again.”

The new security measures will also affect those who aren’t necessarily considered traditional marathon participants. Runners who jump in as ‘bandits’ have been allowed to run in past years, but this year organizers say they will look for runners to have official numbers. And veterans and active members of the military who participated in the annual Tough Ruck have learned they will not be allowed to march along the Boston Marathon course with their 40-pound rucksacks, according to Runner’s World. The new guidelines specifically ban cyclists and ‘ruckers’ from the race and prohibit props such as sporting equipment and military and fire gear from being brought into any marathon venue. Instead, the Tough Ruck will take place along the Minuteman Battle Trail on April 19, two days prior to the marathon.

However you slice it, the most important thing for organizers and runners alike is to get the Boston Marathon back to being a premier running event and not remembered for the sad events of last spring.

“Over the coming years, security will likely look different than it is now,” said Kirleis. “But I do believe these new measures, even if on the harsh side, will help put last year behind us and as long as that happens, and as long as it is safe, we turn attention back to the race and away from the nightmare of last year.”

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On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to jay.kumar@gmail.com.

Upcoming races

Wednesday, March 12

• Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com.

Thursday, March 13

• No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact info@wickedrunningclub.com.

Wednesday, March 19

• Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com.

Thursday, March 20

• No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact info@wickedrunningclub.com.

Sunday, March 23

• Hibernian 5K, Hibernian Hall, 105 Federal St., Lynn, 11 a.m. Fun 5K loop course, prize money to top 3 males, females, youth, and costumes. Contact: Karyn Coulon (Ancient Order of Hibernians) at 781-598-6020 or aohrecoveryrun@gmail.com.

• Salem 5K Cross Country Run at Olde Salem Greens, 75 Wilson St., 9 a.m. Cross country run, challenging hilly course. Contact: Katie Duffey (Salem Park Recreation and Community Services) at 1-978-744-0180 x20 or email kduffey@salem.com.

Visit www.northshoreroadraceguide.com/race-calendar for more race listings.