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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2013

Glass City Marathon officials look into new safety measures after Boston tragedy

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
More than 6,000 runners participated in last year's Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon. Officials speculate that after the bombings in Boston that participation may increase this year. More than 6,000 runners participated in last year's Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon. Officials speculate that after the bombings in Boston that participation may increase this year.
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Clint McCormick hesitates to outline the specifics of security protocols in place for the Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon.

When he discussed preparations and general precautions set up for the regional road race April 28, McCormick said there are times when road-race organizers can’t prepare for the unexpected — as evidenced Monday, when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon and, according to media reports, killed three people and injured at least 180 more people.

“When you’re looking at and planning events like this, you don’t plan for a bomb,” said McCormick, race director for the Glass City Marathon. “But you consider the reaction to what could happen. My biggest concern when planning for a marathon is someone who is talking on a cell phone, who drives into the middle of a course and hits a runner.”

In the wake of the bombings at the marathon, regional race organizers expressed shock over the attack and sympathy for the victims.

As a result, regional race organizers are reviewing their safety protocols and security measures but do not plan to significantly overhaul those plans.

“As event organizers, our role is to have an established crisis plan in place,” said Anne Bitong, executive director of the Akron Marathon, scheduled for Sept. 28. “With our crisis management plan, as a staff, we’re trained by FEMA in sports and special-events management planning, and as event organizers, our position is to hand over an emergency situation to city or local governments and let the trained emergency professionals handle that.”

McCormick did say the option of screening measures and background checks for the number of volunteers, runners or race personnel is unreasonable, given cost and time constraints.

In the 24 hours after the Boston bombings, McCormick and race organizers met with law enforcement representatives from the five jurisdictions involved in the Glass City Marathon — the University of Toledo, Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania Township, and the City of Sylvania — to discuss precautions already in place, review safety and security protocols, and address any concerns that have arisen. At that same time, no concrete changes had yet been implemented for the Glass City Marathon.

However, McCormick said that in meetings with race volunteers this week, he and his staff will address the importance of vigilance during the race and will discuss with officials the measures that can be taken to protect the 26.2-mile course and the runners on it.

“Nobody really understands what happened in Boston,” McCormick said. “Once more information comes out, it will help with decisions that we make in the future.”

Still, Bitong said the events in Boston elicited a proactive response among race organizers.

“What happened in Boston will put a microscope on our crisis-management plan,” Bitong said. “We’ve reached out to Summit County emergency agencies. We’ve got meetings already in place to dissect our own emergency plan. But year-round, we have one in place. Whether it’s a weather delay or an emergency situation that could cause a safety risk, we call in appropriately trained emergency teams in executing plans.”

In Michigan’s capital city, officials from the Lansing Marathon did not return calls to the Blade, but Lansing police Chief Teresa Symanski told the Associated Press the law enforcement agency will conduct more patrols and bomb sweeps for Sunday’s race.

Jack Staph, executive director of the Cleveland Marathon, told Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS that race security will be strengthened for the May 19 race, and that he and his staff plan to evaluate the security measures of other races.

Furthermore, Boston Marathon organizers told the Associated Press on Tuesday that it will hold the race in 2014.

In the immediate hours after the Boston Marathon bombings, McCormick didn’t know if any runners had withdrawn from the Glass City Marathon, but he doesn’t anticipate the events in Boston to have an adverse effect on the road race, which drew more than 6,000 participants last year.

“My gut feeling suggests that the running community is strong,” McCormick said. “We might see an increase in participations to show respect for those in the Boston area. You can’t live life in fear. If anything, you may see an incredible response.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter@RLenziBlade.



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