Albany police are implementing a host of strict security measures at CDPHP’s Workforce Team Challenge to ensure public safety in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon last month.
Spectators and participants at the 3.5-mile race next Thursday will no longer be permitted to carry backpacks or coolers at the venue. Anything brought into the Empire State Plaza must be in a clear plastic bag for easy inspection, according to police.
Also, no domestic pets will be allowed on site, with exception of service dogs. Photo identification will be required for both spectators and participants.
Volunteers at the event will be required to wear identifying shirts at all times and carry photo ID. The Albany Police Department, the agency providing security at the event, is reminding everyone at the event to remain vigilant and promptly report any suspicious activity.
Albany police spokesman Steve Smith said more details about the increased security measures will be announced next week. He said race organizers and police are trying to tailor the event so a greater degree of safety can be provided.
“Our primary concern and our only obligation is public safety,” he said. “We just want to make sure everyone is safe.”
The race is regarded as the largest in the Capital Region, normally drawing more than 9,000 runners and roughly 25,000 spectators to downtown Albany. Thursday’s race start time is 6:25 p.m.
Race director Mark Warner and Mayor Gerald Jennings’ office referred all comments about the security changes to the Albany police. Last month, a pair of bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring about 260 others, some of them gravely. Investigators later determined the bombs were pressure cookers filled with shrapnel and explosives that were stowed in backpacks dropped among spectators crowded near the finish line of the famed 26.2-mile race and then detonated.
The Workforce Team Challenge is one of two spring races that draw large numbers of runners and spectators. The annual Freihofer’s Run for Women in early June draws about 7,000 runners and roughly 20,000 spectators.
The Workforce Team Challenge is the first large race to occur in the Capital Region since the Boston bombings. In the immediate aftermath, many local race organizers figured the tragedy in Boston would have a some sort of impact on their events.
Charles Woodruff of Fleet Feet Sports in Albany wasn’t surprised to hear about the new regulations. The owner of the Albany-based running apparel retailer said the sport has likely changed because of the marathon bombings and the regulations now being instituted at the Albany race could be just the beginning.
“The sport has changed a bit. We’re going to feel the effects of that for years to come,” he said.
Woodruff, whose business has a team of about a dozen runners entered in the Workforce Team Challenge, doesn’t expect participants or spectators to be happy about the changes. But he anticipates many will understand the reasoning behind them.
“I think it’s what we can probably expect,” he said.
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