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Originally published June 20, 2013 at 6:50 PM | Page modified June 21, 2013 at 7:11 AM

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Police ramp up security for Rock ’n’ Roll Seattle Marathon

Increased patrols and bomb-sniffing dogs will accompany the nearly 20,000 runners participating in this weekend’s Rock ’n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, the city’s first major race since the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Increased police patrols and bomb-sniffing dogs will join the nearly 20,000 runners expected for this weekend’s Rock ’n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, the city’s first major race since the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April.

Detective Renee Witt, a Seattle Police Department (SPD) spokeswoman, wouldn’t disclose exactly how many officers will be monitoring Saturday’s race, but she said attendees will be well-protected by both uniformed and plainclothes officers from SPD, the FBI, and other local and federal agencies. The bomb-sniffing dogs could be used to comb areas, such as the gear check near the start line, for explosives, Witt said.

The race, which will feature a marathon and half-marathon, is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broad Street and finish at Mercer Street and Fourth Avenue.

The openness and length of the course makes a marathon more difficult to monitor than an enclosed concert or sporting event, Witt acknowledged, but she said teams of race organizers, volunteers and police will secure the route.

“For us, it’s a matter of coordinating with the event organizers and telling them what to expect,” she said. “With coordinated efforts, I think things should run smoothly.”

FBI spokesman Special Agent Fred Gutt called the SPD “well-equipped” for such an event and said that, while it’s not unusual for the two agencies to work together on a large event like this, the FBI’s role is largely to supplement the local force where needed.

The marathon kicks off the Seafair calendar of summer events, several of which require a significant police security detail, Witt said. She pointed out that this is the marathon’s fifth year in Seattle and that no incidents have occurred in previous years.

“I don’t anticipate any problems,” she said.

More than a dozen members of Competitor Group, which hosts the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, attended this year’s Boston Marathon and had left the area 10 minutes before the explosions.

Dan Cruz, a race spokesman for the company, said the attacks hit close to home for all of them.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured during the April 15 twin bombings near the marathon’s finish line. One of the two brothers suspected of the bombings, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is awaiting trial on federal charges.

The running community has rallied around the victims and families, with groups like Run Now — which will sell $2 blue memorial “04.15.13” wristbands at Saturday’s race — raising money to support The One Fund Boston. The One Fund, formed to assist those affected by the attacks, has raised more than $54.5 million and is still accepting donations.

A moment of silence will be observed before Saturday’s run to honor the victims.

Cruz said Competitor Group has hosted four major marathons, in Nashville, Tenn.; Madrid; Portland; and San Diego since the Boston attacks. Organizers have worked with police in each city to increase security in both visible and behind-the-scenes ways, he said, and they’re doing so in Seattle as well.

Just under 20,000 runners signed up this year, down a bit from years past, but Cruz doesn’t attribute the drop in registration to the Boston attacks. The bombing “scared everybody,” Cruz said, but it galvanized runners as well.

“There’s been a tremendous outpouring of support from local runners and runners around the world,” he said. “Even specifically in Seattle, runners who said they maybe weren’t going to run this year because of their training schedules or because they’re recovering from injuries are signing up to show the strength and resilience of the marathon community in the aftermath of the Boston event.”

Rock ’n’ Roll Seattle sold out in its inaugural year, with 25,000 runners registering — although some didn’t ultimately run — and hasn’t hit that number since, Cruz said. Approximately 2,000 volunteers will staff the start line, the expo and water stations that are set up at each mile marker along the course.

“We want people to come to the race and have fun and feel safe,” said Witt, the Seattle police spokeswoman.

One change this year: Police and race organizers are asking runners to bring their belongings in clear plastic bags instead of backpacks, boxes or coolers to help expedite security checks.

But lines of people have snarled through the city during the marathon in past years, and Witt doesn’t think that will change much. When they get there, she said, plastic bags aren’t all they’ll need.

“We’re asking people to bring a lot of patience,” she said. “Expect a lot of runners, a lot of spectators and a lot of traffic with these enhanced security measures.” And, she added, whatever you do, “arrive early.”

Colin Campbell: 206-464-2033 or ccampbell@seattletimes.com

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