This weekend’s Los Angeles Marathon will have added layers of security, starting with the days before the race, in response to lessons learned from last year’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.
For starters, L.A. Marathon runners have to run their own errands this year — each participant must pick up his or her race packet Friday and Saturday and show a valid ID when they do. Friends can’t pick up packets for friends.
“We will no longer allow individuals to pick up Participant Packets on behalf of others,” race organizers said on their website. “We understand that some unavoidable conflicts will occur; if that is the case, please email email@example.com to seek a resolution.”
There was a steady stream of marathon participants in and out of the L.A. Convention Center downtown on Friday afternoon picking up race packets. But even that stream of people was managed for security flow.
“They’re just regulating everything now,” said first-time marathon runner Jonathan Garcia as he waited in line to enter the expo where runners are given clear plastic race bags.
The clear bags are also new to the L.A. Marathon. They allow police to more easily see what’s inside them. Runners will only be allowed to bring those clear plastic bags to the race.
At last year's Boston Marathon, the two pressure-cooker bombs that exploded at the finish line were concealed in dark bags.
Because of that, spectators at the L.A. Marathon will be asked to wait for friends and family who are running the race, not at the finish line, but at a special “secured event zone” located on Ocean Avenue from Santa Monica Boulevard and Colorado Street.
Spectors should also expect to go through a security checkpoint before entering this area. This is also why the race organizers ask people to only take a bag if it’s necessary, to help keep security lines short.
Runners and their clear plastic bags will also be screened at security checkpoints either before they board shuttle buses to Dodger Stadium, where all the action gets started, or when they arrive.
“I think the precautions they are taking are reasonable,” said Lisa Fraiser, 59, who ran the Nike Marathon in Washington D.C. just two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing.
“Well in D.C., you can’t do anything without having a bomb-sniffing dog behind you,” she joked. “I’m glad they’re having a lot of security. It makes you feel safer.”
The city of Los Angeles will activate its Emergency Operation Center on Sunday morning, just in case.
“If something were to happen and we have to quickly move people, we’re already ahead of the game,” said Chris Ipsen, public information officer for the EOC. “We’re leaning forward in case something were to happen. So that’s a big enhancement.”
About 25,000 runners are expected to participate in the L.A. Marathon. Ipsen said to even expect police officers running the marathon while others are watching the outskirts, as well as security cameras.