The Boston Athletic Association has informed participants in the 2014 Boston Marathon of a number of increased security measures that will be in place for this year's event. Among these is a "no bags" policy -- which includes participants as well as spectators in certain areas near the race course.
Also banned are backpacks, glass containers, bottles capable of carrying more than 1 liter of liquid, strollers, suitcases, bulky costumes, and large flags. Another change is the barring of "unofficial participants" (such as the so-called "bandit" or "ghost" participants) at any point on the race course.
To handle the demands of these new regulations, the BAA has bolstered "gear check" options and measures such as the introduction of warmth retention capes at the finish.
"You want to achieve the right balance between security and the joy and the celebration that has always been a part of Marathon weekend," BAA executive director Tom Grilk told The Boston Globe. "Public safety officials and the BAA want to see the proper balance being struck."
Race organizers say they expect 36,000 runners for the 2014 race in April, up from 27,000 last year. The increased number of participants and spectators have law enforcement already making detailed plans for the race. More barriers will be set up to separate Boston Marathon runners from spectators. The FBI will deploy a SWAT team. State police will use portable surveillance cameras along the route.
The changes, which are a response to the bombings that marred last year's event, have already been echoed in other races around the country. The New York Marathon in November instituted bag screening for spectators as well as inspecting runners before the start of the race. Police presence was enhanced and 1,500 cameras were positioned along the route to monitor the course during the event.
Fort Worth's Cowtown multi-race event held the weekend of Feb. 21-23 imposed several similar restrictions including barring participants from using their own bags in the gear check area and requiring all runners to use a clear plastic bag provided them. While law enforcement presence was expanded at this year's event, particularly at the start and finish of the event, their presence wasn't an enormous change in comparison with last year's race.