In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, cities across the U.S., including Pittsburgh, are taking a hard look at security for marathons.
City officials said Thursday that the security plan for the Pittsburgh Marathon, scheduled for May 5, is ever-evolving. One certainty is that spectators and runners will see more uniformed officers patrolling.
“But there’s many things behind the scenes that you will not see,” said city Public Safety Director Michael Huss. “I can’t get into all the details, but we’re prepared. We’re continuing to prepare. We’re meeting on a daily basis, and we’re going to be ready.”
While details on exact security procedures aren’t available, there are new measures in place.
Race Director Patrice Matamoros said the changes include new perimeters around the start and finish lines that will be accessible only to runners. There will also be changes to the way runners check their gear.
“Typically runners will check in their gear with a change of clothes and a pair of shoes for post-race,” Matamoros said. “What they’re going to do this year is we’re giving and providing a plastic, clear bag. All runners must use that plastic, clear bag when they check things into gear check."
There are also new guidelines in place for spectators.
“Please no large duffel bags, no large backpacks, and if you do bring something, please expect that you might be checked for it,” Matamoros said.
Spectators will still be allowed at the start and finish lines, but they will not be allowed inside the runner areas.
Marathon organizers said they learned a lot from the 2010 marathon incident in which an abandoned microwave oven was found near the finish line, prompting law enforcement to jump into action. Still, there have been concerns voiced over whether the city and marathon can afford the ramped-up security.
“We’re going to figure this out,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. “We’re going to have the proper number of public safety personnel on board that day. The marathon is not going to go bankrupt this year; it’s not going to go bankrupt next year. We’re going to figure it out like we always have to make this a wonderful event.”
There are numerous events leading up the race, and organizers said the increased security presence applies to all marathon activities.