The race was spectacular to watch. Over 45,000 runners and 1.7 million spectators crowded the streets of Chicago last Sunday morning for the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The Chicago marathon record was broken, the weather was spectacular, and the security was ramped up.
In this trek through 29 of Chicago’s neighborhoods, the runners and spectators were joined by over 1,000 police officers; some of which were undercover. Chicago is the first major marathon to be run since the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon earlier this year. In preparation for the Chicago Marathon, the city boasted that they had ramped up their security in order to keep runners, spectators, and residents safe.
But what exactly did they do to enhance their promised security?
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said, “We are going to have eyes on the ground on just about every foot of the marathon route.” In addition to the 1,000 officers on the ground, the city of Chicago implemented use of helicopters and most of the city’s 22,000 cameras to have eyes everywhere.
In fact, another change that Chicago implemented this year had some spectators quite frustrated in pre-marathon buzz. Unlike earlier years when family and friends could jump in the race with their loved ones for a second to encourage them, Chicago police boasted prior to the marathon that they would be arresting any unregistered person who attempted to get into the race.
Retired FBI agent Mitt Ahlerich, the security consultant for the race who was the National Football League’s head of security in overseeing security at over 15 SuperBowls, told Huffington Post that “The good news is that we (law enforcement) know what we have to secure: a 26-mile route. The bad news is, so does everybody else.” The largest concern for the police force was not random terrorism, but the possibility of a person or persons attempting to copycat the Boston bombings. But, Ahlerich continued, he strongly believes that the Chicago police force and FBI have been collecting intelligence and are prepared for any possibility.
Even though security was ramped up, the risk was still present. So, why take the risk and run the Chicago Marathon?
For Collierville, Tennesse resident Kevin Lynch, the marathon was much more to him than merely a race. Although his sub-four hour goal is one of his biggest motivations, the 2013 Chicago Marathon was a therapeutic event. “I used to live in Chicago,” Lynch said, “and it was not the best memories for me as a child. So I am using this marathon as a therapy session of sorts to heal and to create good memories of being in Chicago.” Lynch ran a time of 3 hours and 50 minutes, crushing his four-hour goal.
For Ashley Schnell and her husband, Mike, the Chicago marathon was a first. The couple ran every step of the marathon together, especially because of the events that unfolded at Boston, but also to encourage each other. “While everyone was focused on time,” Ashley said, “we focused on pushing each other and being there for each other…that was what made the race for us. Our favorite city, together, with our favorite person.”
Some call it the city’s “slowest parade,” others call it “redemption;” whether the goal was time-related, or to finish every step together, the Chicago marathon was a momentous event for all. After the race was finished, as stated by Schnell, “the pride in the city was clearly evident. We. Are. Marathoners.”