Columbus Race Organizers Rethink Safety Procedures After Boston

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Runners in the Columbus Marathon
Runners in the Columbus Marathon

The bombings at Monday’s Boston Marathon have organizers of Columbus’ largest racing events re-thinking safety precautions.

Darris Blackford, the director of the Columbus Marathon, ran in Monday’s Boston Marathon. He had already returned to his hotel room when he heard two massive explosions. Blackford says he doubts that the bombing was a statement against the marathon.

“Personally I don’t know if the marathon in Boston was the target as much as the gathering of people in Boston,” Blackford says. “It’s a very, very easy opportunity to take advantage of a group of people gathered at any place.”

But the attacks already have the organizers of several Columbus races re-examining security. Blackford says he’s concerned with a few side streets and alleys that run along the Columbus Marathon’s route downtown.

“It’s definitely made me think about the areas that we will probably be restricting, pedestrians and spectators, on race morning downtown because there are walkways, things like Pearl Alley, where people can hide.
In the past, marathoners would receive opaque bags for extra clothing. But now, Blackford says, he might switch to clear plastic bags so that hazardous materials will be harder to hide.

“Those are the little things that we’re going to be thinking about all through our planning over the spring, summer, into the fall just to make sure that we’ve taken steps. Safety is our number one concern,” Blackford says.

The Columbus Marathon does not take place until October. The Komen Race for the Cure will be held a month from now. Komen’s Becca Thomas says Columbus race directors will also be reviewing safety procedures.

“We work with the police, fire, EMS and Red Cross on all necessary safety precautions,” Thomas says. “We’ll actually be revisiting all of those safety precautions in the next week to make sure that everything is up to date and if we need to improve or increase anything.”

Columbus’ Capital City Half-Marathon is coming up in a little more than two weeks. It’s one of the larger half-marathons in the U.S. Dr. Darrin Bright is medical director for that event as well as the Columbus Marathon. He predicts that medical preparedness will also be reassessed.

“We have to understand that we need to be prepared for something like that. In the past we’ve had bomb-sniffing dogs to try to ensure the health and safety of everybody around. But there are definitely going to be some changes,” Bright says.

“This week in preparation for the Capital City Half-Marathon we’re working with the Columbus Fire Department and Homeland Security and Columbus police just to make sure that we’ve taken every necessary precaution to ensure the health and safety of everybody,” Bright says.

Meanwhile Gov. Kasich has ordered stepped-up security at large-scale events around the state and at the Ohio Statehouse.