By Sarah Favot

MediaNews

BOSTON -- Race officials throughout the country are asking themselves how to make 26.2 miles of open course secure for runners and spectators in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon explosions.

Security experts say safeguarding a marathon is unique and presents a greater challenge when compared to other sporting events at indoor venues where spectators must enter and exit through doors, present a ticket, and often undergo bag searches and have assigned seats.

David Holley, managing director/Boston office head at Kroll Advisory Solutions, said marathon spectators are encouraged to go down to the race prepared to make a day of the event, bringing bags and sometimes coolers for food and drink.

"It's a moving event, so the bags are picked up, the bags are put down, sometimes bags are forgotten," Holley said. "It creates a challenge for law enforcement."

One change Holley said spectators might see at the marathon next year is that law-enforcement officers stationed along the course might engage with spectators along the course.

"Not to say there will be any more law enforcement -- Boston does an excellent job staffing the event -- but I think (officers) will likely be encouraged to have more participation," Holley said.

Michael Rozin, president of Rozin Security Consulting, said open events like marathons are attractive to terrorists because they have multiple access points.


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"An additional challenge at marathons, especially like Boston or bigger cities like New York, is they attract bigger crowds, and crowds are also concentrated in certain areas along the course," he said.

Rozin said drastic measures like moving a marathon into an indoor venue would radically change the nature of the event.

"There is no such thing as 100 percent security," he said. "Nevertheless, there are best practices you can use to minimize risk."

Rozin said focusing on areas that are attractive for potential perpetrators and identifying people who could have malicious intent should be a focus of law enforcement.

Holley said the openness of the marathon course and the fact that spectators can move along the marathon route makes the event charming and part of the reason it is so popular in Boston.

"I hope we don't see anything too drastic by way of change," he said.

Holley said he suspects officials will involve the public in discussing any potential changes to security at the marathon and would take a measured approach.

The public also has a role in identifying suspicious behavior, he said, like employing Boston's transit-authority campaign: "If you see something, say something."

No upcoming marathons around the country had been cancelled as of Tuesday afternoon, but race officials say they are reviewing security measures and any intelligence received from the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, who are investigating the explosions in Boston.

Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and one of the organizers of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon scheduled for April 28, said Tuesday afternoon the race would go on as planned for the expected 23,000 runners.

"We don't see any reason why, today, we have to cancel that race," Watkins said.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis detailed some of the security measures in place before the marathon at a Tuesday morning press conference.

Davis said early Monday morning an explosive ordnance-disposal sweep was conducted in the area before the race began and an hour before the first runners crossed the finish line, another EOD sweep was conducted.

"Those two EOD sweeps did not turn up any evidence, but because there is unrestricted access to the racecourse, simply because it's (26.2 miles) long, people can come and go and bring items in and out," he said.

Watkins said organizers are looking at several different safety measures in light of the explosions, including informing participants and spectators that bags should not be left unattended.

"We're looking at 100 things today," she said. "We've made no decisions."

She said officials are already hyper-sensitive about security because of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings that killed 165 people. The race is held in honor of those killed and 165 seconds of silence are observed. Watkins said they would have additional moments of silence in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon.

"At some point we have to quit running scared and we're going to go on, despite it and quit running scared," she said.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said Monday afternoon his office was already receiving information from Boston authorities and the FBI and would use that intelligence to scrutinize security for Saturday's scheduled marathon.

"It comes down to a balancing act between security and the event," Burbank said. "This is a sporting event, not a security event."

Salt Lake City Marathon Director Steve Bingham said the top concern for any race director for any event is always the safety of the participants, spectators and volunteers who help the event run smoothly.

"We're there for everyone to walk out with an accomplishment," he said. "The other stuff makes it fun, but that doesn't drive our activity. Our activity is driven by keeping people safe."

Although providing security for a marathon course is daunting, Salt Lake area authorities have done it for years, Burbank said. Utah law-enforcement officials also have the experience of the 2002 Winter Games, which provided invaluable training for veteran officers.

"This is nothing new. We live in a post 9/11 world," Burbank said. "I don't think it rattles our department. We have plans already in place."

Christopher Smart and Christopher Kamrani of The Salt Lake Tribune contributed to this report.

Follow Sarah Favot on Twitter @sarahfavot.