DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for The Boston Globe
It goes without saying that given what happened at the Boston Marathon last year, changes were inevitable. A lot of groups have been working almost around the clock to develop these plans to ensure the safety of all those involved in the event.
The word that resonates the most and appropriately describes what has been occurring in the past 12 months is “collaboration.” We’ve worked through three phases – recovery after processing what happened in 2013, conceptualizing what the 2014 event would be like, and finally the execution of the plan.
We have been so amazed and impressed with our federal, state, and local public safety partners. They have been doing an amazing job and have our back as well as everyone else’s.
After safety, our number one goal is to maintain the quality and integrity of the race. We have set the gold standard in the industry. We have been, and continue to be, about the “pursuit of athletic excellence” and are determined to live up to that standard and expectation.
Many aspects of our race have changed, but many also remain the same. First, given the significance of this year’s race, the increased interest and demand and the invitation to those who were stopped to return again, we’ve increased the field size by another 9,000 runners, making this year’s race the second-largest in the history of the marathon at 36,000 official participants.
Many seem to be saying, “well, they did it for the 100th running of the race in 1996 (when the race exceeded 38,000) they should have no problem doing it now.” Not so fast. We actually have less space to work with this time because schools were built in Hopkinton where we once staged runners, and in Boston the secured area does not extend to the Boston Common as it did in 1996.
The way you deal with races of significant size is by focusing on the amount of space available to work with and the amount of time you have been permitted for. If you have less space, then you need more time. It’s as simple as that.
The way we are dealing with huge increase in field size is by spreading out the field by adding a fourth wave and by increasing the time gap between waves. Interestingly, by the time the first wheelchair crosses the finish line in Boston, the last person will not have even crossed the starting line, meaning we will have athletes spread out over the entire 26.2 mile course at the same time.
And, of course, security will be tighter. Checkpoints have been identified where runners and spectators alike will be screened. We are asking anyone who is not officially registered to run to not attempt to participate this year. With the increase in field size already, we are stretched to the maximum. Additional non-registered runners will only tax and stretch our resources and manpower well beyond their capacities, thus putting everyone at more risk.
The key to having a positive experience this year will be to be patient with the process and to leave plenty of time to get to where you are going. Access to almost any area will be slower than in the past. The earlier you arrive the smoother the process will be for you.
It is anticipated that more than one million spectators will line the course from Hopkinton to Boston, almost double any other “average” year. As such, we will be placing more crowd control barricades along the course than ever before. As the runners make their way through the course, they will see more and more barricades, especially in the more densely populated areas. Spectators are prohibited from jumping onto the course this year to run alongside an official runner. If someone attempts to do so, they are subject to removal from the course by law enforcement officials. This is just not the year to be trying to do that.
The final mile of this year’s race will be like never before. Emotions will be elevated to an all-time high. The historic “right on Hereford, left on Boylston” experience will last a lifetime.
And, above all, the Boston Marathon will be the safest place on the planet to be on Monday, April 21st.
It is time to take back Boylston Street and to take back the finish line. It is time to run again.