By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
BOSTON (16-Apr) -- Gathering at a press conference fewer than two blocks from the Boston Marathon finish line, officials from the Boston Athletic Association, Boston Police Department, and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) addressed members of the media in advance of Monday's 118th running of the Boston Marathon.
Among those to speak were Race Director Dave McGillivray, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, and MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz. All three assured those assembled that Patriots' Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be as safe as ever, with special steps taken to validate the well being of runners and spectators.
"Everyone is counting on us and we are going to come through," said McGillivray, who has directed the race since 2001. "We will definitely be ready."
Speaking primarily about the race itself, McGillivray listed the many changes that can be anticipated on Monday. As a result of the increase in field size to 36,000 athletes, a volunteer corps of 10,000-strong will be on hand from the start in Hopkinton through the finish in Boston. A no-bag policy for runners has been implemented, and public address systems have been installed all along the course in case of emergency.
"I truly believe because of our public safety officials that this will be the safest place on the planet on April 21. It will be a family-friendly fun event," said McGillivray in a strong, convincing tone.
Following McGillivray's comments, Schwartz took the podium and explained the seven-month long process to create a safe race atmosphere. Schwartz distinguished three key points his team has worked on in particular: preparedness, public engagement, and prevention.
"Our overarching goal, as it has been for the B.A.A., has been to develop a safety and security plan that meets the needs of the eight cities and towns while maintaining the traditional character of Patriots' Day and the Boston Marathon," he said. "I am personally confident that we have and will achieve that goal."
A key component in the lead-up to April 21 has been public awareness, encouraging the "see something, say something" rule to report suspicious activity to police or security officials.
In addition, more than 3,000 police officers and National Guard representatives will be along the race course, as well as up to 500 plain-clothed (undercover) officers. According to Boston Police Commissioner Evans, many of the officers have undergone specific training that will help them pick up on and notice suspicious activity.
More than 100 video cameras will send live video to a security command center as well.
Evans, who finished the 2013 Boston Marathon in 3:34:06, added that security on Boylston Street will be extra tight. At the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded, killing three and wounding more than 200.
"We have different security measures that we have taken this year," said Evans. "[We] will have tighter measures getting into that area as a spectator, as well as getting into that area if you are a worker."
Evans said that once Boylston Street reaches a certain capacity and pedestrian traffic is disturbed to an extent, then spectators not already on the finishing stretch will be asked to move and watch the race elsewhere. Evans said there wasn't a certain spectator number that would cause this per-se, rather it depends on the flow of bystanders in and out of the area.
Evans, in his first year as Commissioner after taking over for Edward Davis, dealt with a security issue on Tuesday evening, as two unattended backpacks were left close to the finish line on Boylston Street. One of the backpacks was said to have contained a rice cooker, a fact confirmed by Evans. Because of this, safety officials were forced to clear the surrounding area and take necessary measures to determine contents in the bag weren't explosives.
"I think unfortunately last night we had an incident that you can see what the anxiety level goes up when an unattended backpack gets left on the street," Evans said. "I think it really set the tone last night, how important it is to ask you not to bring that type of item [backpacks]."
Evans assured, again, that his goal was to make the 118th Boston Marathon the safest race possible while not disturbing the joyous atmosphere that comes with the event.
"We want this to continue to be the great race that it has always been," he said. "I am very confident in our officers. I think you've seen what a great job they did last year on April 15, and I'm sure they are going to do a great job this year in making the race the jewel that it has always been as the best marathon in the world."