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Security will be tighter, but organizers say no runners have expressed concerns about the race.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
Karsten Brown, 37, of Front Royal was the first place runner in the 2012 National College Blue Ridge Marathon. He finished with a time of 3:01:36.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Roanoke authorities said there will be an increased police presence at Saturday’s Blue Ridge Marathon after the bombings Monday at the Boston Marathon.
Roanoke Police Chief Chris Perkins on Tuesday said his department is taking every precaution officers can think of to ward off danger during the race, which will attract runners and spectators to downtown Roanoke, as well as south Roanoke and the mountains south of the city.
Perkins said he asked other police forces in the Roanoke Valley — Salem, Vinton and Roanoke County — to contribute manpower during Saturday’s race, and they all immediately offered assistance. He said the Virginia State Police also has volunteered to help and he has been in contact with federal authorities stationed in the area.
In response to the bombings near the finish line of Boston’s race, Perkins said officers, and likely many spectators, will be on heightened alert.
Perkins is asking the public to refrain from carrying packages, backpacks or purses to the race if at all possible. He said limiting the number of bags will allow officers to focus their resources and also minimize spectators’ worries.
Still, Perkins said anyone who spots a suspicious person or package should go to law enforcement immediately.
“We are the best when our community supports the actions we take to keep them safe,” he said.
Another concern focuses on cars parked along the marathon route. Perkins said all cars should be removed from the route in the downtown area by Saturday morning, while cars farther from the start and finish lines likely will be inspected in advance.
According to marathon organizers, turnout will not be diminished by worries about the Boston bombings.
Pete Eshelman, director of outdoor branding for the Roanoke Regional Partnership and the race’s chairman, said he hasn’t gotten a single call from runners concerned about safety.
“If anything, we’ve had a surge in registration and in people wanting to volunteer,” Eshelman said. “We’ve had 16 people register today. Normally you wouldn’t see that.”
Total registration as of Tuesday afternoon was 1,606 runners. Of those, 514 have registered for the full marathon, with 853 registered for the half-marathon. An additional 239 runners are participating in the marathon relay. Those numbers don’t include registrations for the YMCA Children’s Marathon event.
Registrations are up about 58 percent over last year.
Former Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers, a celebrity runner who will be at the Blue Ridge Marathon as part of a relay, is still planning to attend.
Race organizers will provide runners with stickers, ribbons and wrist bands to honor Boston. Eshelman said he has heard that many runners plan to wear Boston-related clothing for the run.
Perkins asked that people — even those who don’t plan to attend the marathon — check the race’s map and identify any routes they may need to alter during Saturday’s race.
“If there is an emergency, know what’s happening downtown,” Perkins said. “Figure out, ‘If I have to go to the hospital, how do I get there?’ ”
He said no traffic will be allowed to cross the race route.
The race begins at 7:35 a.m. Saturday on Jefferson Street near the intersection with Salem Avenue. The finish line will be near the Taubman Museum of Art.
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