Some 36,000 runners from 70 countries take part Monday in the 118th Boston Marathon. Security is tight at the event, following last year’s bombings near the finish line that killed three and wounded more than 260. An estimated one million people are expected to line the 42.2-kilometer route, from the town of Hopkinton east to Boston’s Boylston Street.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said heightened security will include more uniformed and plainclothes police scattered throughout the race’s route, as well as a ban on backpacks and large containers near the finish line, scene of last year’s deadly bombings. Appearing on the CBS program Face the Nation Sunday, Patrick talked about how safe he expects the race to be.
"Very safe. Somebody said it may be the safest place in America tomorrow. But, I will say that we’ve tried to strike a balance between enhanced security and preserving the family feel of this day. One commentator, a friend of ours Mike Barnicle, described the marathon as a 26.2-mile long block party, and there are no strangers here. So, we want to maintain that spirit, but also have considerably more rigor because of the attention the marathon got last year, and the tragedy that ensued, and the demands that we think are quite reasonable for enhanced preparation for this year," said Patrick.
Patrick said there have been no known pre-race threats that would cause concern. Last Tuesday, following a memorial service marking the one-year anniversary of last year’s marathon tragedy, police arrested a man with a backpack near the finish line. It contained a rice cooker and was deemed safe.
On April 15, 2013, two pressure-cooker devices allegedly hidden in backpacks by two brothers of Chechen descent, 26-year Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his 20-year old brother, Dzhokhar, detonated, sending metal fragments through a crowd of bystanders near the finish line on Boylston Street. Several people lost limbs.
The blasts set off a multi-day manhunt that ended with Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead from a shootout with police and Dzhokhar being arrested in a Boston suburb. He is due to go on trial in November on 30 federal charges and could face the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Scott Kennedy, one of the marathon runners, felt participating in this year’s marathon would send a message.
"Just to show the terrorists that they can’t win. I saw a picture a few weeks ago that said ‘We need to take our finish line back,’ and that’s what I think that 36,000 people are going to do tomorrow, is take the finish line back," said Kennedy.
Canadian runner Mark Rush said the bad guys are not going to take this race away, while British runner Mark Hazelhurst said everyone is aware of what happened last year and people want to turn out to run, to celebrate running and celebrate the city of Boston.
For the top men and women competitors, including the 2013 winners, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia for the men and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya for the women, the focus will be on the race. Another runner will be Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to Washington, who said he is taking part to show solidarity with Americans.