The Running World Fears That Marathons Will Never Be The Same

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In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, the running world is trying to figure out what this means for future marathons.

Marathons are inherently open events. The venue for a marathon is the outside world itself, and that's a meaningful part of the nature of the race.

So today runners and running journalists are trying reconcile the necessity of openness with the necessity of security. 

Roger Robinson, a runner and writer for the Guardian, floated the possibility that marathons could be held on closed circuits:

"Our problem is that this marathon world of goodwill and prelapsarian innocence has made us so vulnerable. (...) Our sport is such a great photo-op, and global media coverage is guaranteed. Modern murderers like those things."

"It's too soon to say where we go from here. The world cross-country championships were much weakened by the demands of modern security, meaning they always have to be held on closed circuits instead of across country as they should be. Could we run marathons on safe closed circuits? How could you reconcile that with the essential notion that the marathon is a journey, and a celebration of the community or the environment it passes through?"

Lou Marciani is the director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at the University of Southern Mississippi. He told the BBC:

"It's an outdoor event with no access control: 26 miles of open-ended opportunities for people to come in and out."

"Someone can walk up in the middle of the marathon disguised as a runner or a spectator, and we have no way of knowing."

"This will expand our idea of what a venue means."

Tim Kelly, a running coach, spoke to KTNV in Las Vegas and said the public could now be kept separate from the runners

"Sadly enough, it will take some of the joys out of it because they will build constraints in to keep the public further back from the participants. Nothing good will come of this."

Erik Malinkowski of BuzzFeed Sports went to Boston University and described just how open the Boston Marathon is

"First, it's an extremely open event, in the sense that the only thing separating you — well, you and a couple hundred thousand of your fellow spectators — from the planet's most elite runners is usually nothing. Sometimes, it's one of those easily moveable steel police barricades, sometimes it's a piece of race tape, sometimes it's the stern hand of a volunteer. But sometimes it's nothing, and people are always running from one side of the course to the other."

(...)

"Now, that has perhaps been irrevocably turned on its head."

Ryan O'Hanlon of Pacific Standard wrote that we now live in a world where marathon violence exists:

"Maybe not next year, maybe the openness of it all will return in 364 days, but right now, a day after those bombs went off and this eight-year-old died and people lost their limbs, it has to be different. Marathon violence now exists in this country."

Whitney Dreier of Outside magazine worries that the celebratory nature of marathons might be changed

"It’s kind of scary the impact this will have on future races. The London Marathon is next week and they’re already talking about lockdown security."

"Marathons are a celebration—people work for months or years to prepare. There were 27,000 runners, the majority from out of town, plus their families at the race. A lot of hotels in that area have been evacuated, so they’re not sure where to go. Flights might be delayed. And there were some 13,000 people that weren’t able to finish today. It’s so sad to think that what was the culmination of so much work for so many people turned into such a nightmare."

It's clearly too early to know how marathon organizers will change things after this tragedy, but it's safe to say that it will be different on some level, even if that difference is purely psychological.



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