Hartford Marathon Tightens Security

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Tex by Suzanne Carlson, The Hartford Courant

Video report by Jeevan Vittal, Fox CT

Police say they have increased security at Saturday’s ING Hartford Marathon in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and are confident that the event will be safe for runners and their families.

State law enforcement officials have “researched what other marathons have done,” said Lt. Brian Foley, a lieutenant in the Hartford Police Department and the commander of the major crimes division. “I know they looked at Chicago as well as Boston and some other ones, too, in the area, as to what they’ve done and what has been successful.”

Foley will be running in the marathon for the fourth time and said that he has no qualms about participating.

“I assume this will be the safest marathon I’ve ever been to,” Foley said.

Race Director Beth Shluger has said that more than 12,000 runners are expected to participate in either the marathon, half marathon or 5K race events.

“We obviously are planning more than we’ve ever planned,” Shluger said. “We all have the same mission — to make sure we put on a really safe event.”

The security presence will consist of a mixture of federal, state and local law enforcement.

“We had meetings with federal, state, military, local towns, everyone together,” Foley said. “We’ve done the intelligence gathering, the research, we’re in communication with all our partners.”

When asked whether a bomb squad will be present during the race, Foley declined to comment.

“I don’t want to get into discussing what specific resources will be deployed,” Foley said, only that “more resources will be deployed” than in previous years.

Vernon resident Charlie Chatterton, an associate professor of sports management at Eastern Connecticut State University, has participated in different versions of the Hartford race since 2000 and said that he’s run the full marathon for the past eight years or so.

He and his wife have three children, aged 14, 11, and 7, and while his oldest daughter will be running in a meet at Rockville High School, Chatterton said that the rest of the family will be running the Hartford Marathon.

Chatterton, 49, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009 and said that he was “stunned, to say the least” by the tragedy in April, but that he has no reservations about continuing to participate in marathons.

“I’m looking forward to Saturday, and I would run Boston again,” Chatterton said. “Every marathon has its own character and its own personality, and I mean Hartford, it’s like the home one. I joke with my kids it’s like Christmas, I look forward to this all year.”

Chatterton said that he spoke with his children about what had happened in Boston but “we don’t want them to be afraid of going and doing any of these different things,” and he trusts organizers to ensure runners’ safety.

“I know Beth Shluger and all of them, they take these things into consideration,” Chatterton said. “It’s something I’m pretty confident they’ve addressed as best as you can manage these things, based on the nature of the event.”

The Wineglass Marathon in Corning, N.Y., was held on Oct. 6 and had “really no problems to speak of, no issues security-wise,” according to Corning police Sgt. Kenzie Spaulding, who was also a runner in the race.

“The marathon extends through the village of Bath, goes through many towns and villages and ends up in the city of Corning, so it’s actually a combination effort amongst all the law enforcement agencies in the area,” Spaulding said. “I know that the state police did bring their bomb squad down and they were patrolling the finish line and the area where the runners sort of congregate.”

The annual event drew 5,000 runners from as far away as Texas, and “I think it was a record amount of participants. Every year it does seem to increase almost exponentially, so it’s become quite an event, and it was actually well-run and well-organized,” Spaulding said. “Thankfully for that, there were no problems or issues and it really seemed to go off without any problem.”

Parking at the starting line was prohibited, “which was a change from last year, and the security checks for the baggage were completely different from the way it was previous years.”

Like many marathons, the Wineglass required all runners to stow their personal effects in clear plastic bags, which were transported from the starting area to the finish line in secure UPS trucks, which “worked out really well,” Spaulding said.

The Hartford and New York City marathons, both presented by ING, are also using a “gear bag” policy that requires runners to store personal items in an officially issued clear bag that can be picked up at the finish line. The New York City marathon is also increasing the number of baggage search checkpoints and is encouraging attendees not to carry a bag to decrease security-related wait times, according to the race website.

Sheila Sutton, co-director of the Wineglass race, said that organizers had tightened security procedures in mind before the April bombings.

“We had some planned changes before Boston even occurred,” Sutton said. “So we were kind of ahead of the game with how we were redesigning our finish line area and had started that, making it really just tighter, limiting who was in there, having security folks strategically placed in locations to make sure folks weren’t coming in and getting in the way.”

Runners’ hydration packs were subject to search and additional clear gear bags were available at the starting line “just to double ensure that there was no excuse not to use one,” Sutton said. Spectators were also encouraged not to carry bags and those who did were subject to random searches by police, she added.

Although Corning, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, is not a highly populated area like New York City or Boston, it is the headquarters of Corning Glass, a Fortune 500 company, Sutton said.

“There’s always copycats, you know, so you just don’t take a risk,” Sutton said. “Our Corning police department was a huge help in training key volunteers in what to look for … half the battle is awareness.”

Sutton said it’s important that race spectators remain vigilant and do not hesitate to report suspicious activity.

“That’s what Boston did for all of us, I think. We all learned after 9/11, and we all learned more after Boston.”

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