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Lincoln Marathon organizers eye security measures

Lincoln Marathon organizers are working closely with local police, fire and rescue personnel to determine how the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured more than 170 people will affect security measures at the May 5 race.

“Until we sit down and really go over every inch of what we do and how we do it (with emergency responders), I won't know what those changes are,” race co-director Nancy Sutton said. “We are talking about it, we are thinking about it and we will meet with everyone involved.”

Sutton already has met with Lincoln police and the city's safety director. She is also meeting with Lincoln fire and rescue officials as well as officials from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which hosts the race's starting and finish lines.

“We will be more vigilant,” Sutton said.

Ten thousand people are registered for the Lincoln Marathon and Half-Marathon. Sutton does not expect the attack in Boston to affect turnout.

Kirsten Licht, 36, of Lincoln is signed up for the half-marathon, her third, and said she will run as planned.

“(The bombings give) you more determination to continue running, to remember and honor those who now can't run,” she said.

Aaron Rouse, of La Vista, said he has no concerns about participating in the Lincoln Half-Marathon.

"If I have learned anything from being a runner, I have learned that the only obstacles that will prevent me from achieving the goals I set for myself are the obstacles that I create," the 27-year-old said. "I will not allow the fear created by this one event stop me."

At least 10,000 bracelets that say “For Boston” and “4/15/13” will be available for purchase at the race. Proceeds will go to Boston.

The Gambler Half Marathon and 5K races in Council Bluffs on Sunday will continue as scheduled with a security presence.

Marathon directors in Omaha and Des Moines said they are also reviewing their security plans to ensure the safety of runners and spectators for their fall events.

The Omaha Marathon in September typically sees between 4,000 and 5,000 people. Susie Smisek, who organizes the race, said event personnel will be more aware of suspicious activity, but local police are largely responsible for handling specific security concerns.

Sgt. Matt Manhart, commander of the Omaha Police Department's bomb squad, said Tuesday that the force has security plans in place – plans that include bomb squad officers – that won't be changed in light of the Boston bombings.

"Right now, when we handle special events in Omaha we handle them very well," he said. "There's a lot of safety steps we take."

He added that the tragedy in Boston, "...emphasizes the need...for people to always stay vigilant. If you see something, say something."

Chris Burch, race director of the IMT Des Moines Marathon, said races pose a unique challenge to emergency responders because there is no real point of entry, no security check or turnstiles as opposed to events in a closed arena.

"Any time you have a large amount of spectators coming together in an open area, there's only so much you can do," he said.

Still, safety is every race director's top priority. Burch is reviewing the emergency contingency plan and considering heightening the presence of private security at the Des Moines race, which is expected to draw 9,000 runners.

Emergency contingency planning at marathons and other running events typically revolves around inclement weather, he added. Now, race directors are forced to consider a different kind of crisis.

"It's really shocking and tragic," Burch said. "...It's another unfortunate example of how our lives are changing and how we need to react to that changing landscape in our society."

"We're not going to close down our schools. We're not going to close down our movie theaters. We're not going to close down our shopping malls. And we're not going to stop racing. We're going to continue events of this nature."

Reactions on Twitter

Our fitness reporter (@KatyHealey5) asked people who are signed up for the Lincoln Marathon or another upcoming race how they reacted to the Boston bombings on Twitter. Here's what they had to say.

World-Herald staff writer Maggie O'Brien contributed to this report. Contact the writer:
402-444-1071, katy.healey@owh.com>
twitter.com/KatyHealey5




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