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Marathon Security: What You Need to Know

Heightened precautions in light of last year’s bombings


Backpacks will be banned at all venues involved in this year’s Boston Marathon. Another thing you’ll see less of: runners, as additional barricades will be in place along the entire length of the 26-mile route to give marathoners a wider berth. (This year’s race could draw 9,000 more runners than last year’s.) But you’ll see more cops, especially on bicycles, including all of BU’s two-wheel patrols.

Marathon 2014 will have significantly greater security after last year’s bombings, which injured more than 260 and killed 3, among them BU student Lu Lingzi (GRS’13). Seven members of the BU community will run in her memory, courtesy of slots her family was given by the Boston Athletic Association, organizer of the Marathon. The Lu family offered seven of the slots to the University.

Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, says 3,500 uniformed police officers will guard the route, approximately twice as many as last year. They’ll be joined by an increased number of bomb-sniffing dogs, plainclothes officers, and video surveillance cameras.

BU Police Department Captain Robert Molloy says his department’s dozen cyclist officers will join others from Boston and Brookline to form a rapid-response armada “from Cleveland Circle all the way up to the finish line” at Boylston Street. That force will be able to thread through crannies inaccessible to motor vehicles, even motorcycles, Molloy says.

“It’s going to enable a large group of police officers to be more mobile,” he says. “It’s about getting police officers to areas where there’s a high volume of people.” The officers will be able to help with duty from “rendering medical aid to moving crowds to handling disturbances.” In past years, according to Molloy, the BUPD has handled security just around the Audubon Circle area and has not deployed all its cyclists.

Spectators should know that barricades “that weren’t there last year are going to prevent people from getting close to the runners,” he says. The barricades will also prevent pedestrians from crossing from one side of the Marathon route to the other. In past years, crossing was permitted at designated intersections. Police will more strictly enforce a ban on public drinking than in the past, Molloy says. If someone needs help at one of the race’s many medical tents, the person will not be able to be accompanied by a family member or a friend; parents will be allowed in with children who need help.

Runners too face a barrage of new restrictions, including no bags at the starting line in Hopkinton—only tiny fanny packs able to accommodate a cell phone, a credit card, some medicine, and a Power Bar. The BAA will provide clear plastic bags at Boston Common the morning of the race, and runners may store items in the bags that they’ve kept in backpacks in the past.

Runners must collect their bib numbers themselves before the race rather than delegate others to pick them up. The water bottles they carry on belts during the Marathon can be no bigger than one liter, and personal hydration systems that runners have worn in the past are verboten. And where unregistered runners—so-called bandits—have been permitted in past years, the BAA warns them to stay off the course this year or face removal.

Security personnel are authorized to ban any items people may be carrying that are deemed inappropriate. In addition to backpacks, those items specifically prohibited (besides weapons of any kind, obviously) are: glass containers, handbags and over-the-shoulder bags, packages or bulky items larger than 12 inches by 12 inches by 6 inches (such as blankets and sleeping bags), strollers, suitcases and roll-on bags, coolers, flammable liquids, fireworks, any container capable of holding more than one liter of liquid, vests (except for lightweight running vests), bulky clothing and costumes covering the face, props (these include sporting/military/fire equipment and signs, and flags bigger than 11-by-17 inches), and items larger than 5-by-5 inches.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

13 Comments on Marathon Security: What You Need to Know

  • DB on 04.18.2014 at 5:07 pm

    Anybody who believes that any of this has anything to do with preventing a bombing is a fool.

  • Jspoinolrty on 04.19.2014 at 3:04 am

    Where exactly are these items banned, the whole route, because I mean it’s kinds mean to impose no backpacks on a college campus. Unless it’s just at the finish line.

  • Lorraine Belostock on 04.19.2014 at 12:25 pm

    On the B.A.A. website, it says that the items listed in the last paragraph are banned for “official participants” – not sure if that includes spectators? I think it does in context.
    Also, as clarification, signs are not banned altogether, just signs bigger than 11×17 (the comma makes it seem like all signs are banned) — this actually really, really annoys me bc that means regular sized poster board is out. Also, items bigger than 5x15x5 are banned, so slightly larger than stated.
    Most importantly, cracking down on public drinking?? Come on, don’t let the terrorists win!

    • Brian on 04.20.2014 at 12:55 pm

      Public drinking has always been illegal and has nothing to do with terrorism.

  • Sean Barley on 04.19.2014 at 3:48 pm

    Prayers for all runners and spectators on Marathon Monday and for the entire City of Boston! #BostonStrong!

  • Help Please? on 04.19.2014 at 5:01 pm

    BU: Thank you for the guidance (not to mention the work to keep us safe) but:
    HELP PLEASE! I need to be in the Mugar Library area around noon this Monday and I live on `the other side’ of the marathon route (like, South Campus). Chief Robbins in his e-mail specifies that there will be no road crossings this year: how can I go south-to-north on Monday? Is it impossible? Thank you!

    • Brian on 04.20.2014 at 12:53 pm


      I have the same question. I have tried calling the Boston Police and the Massachusetts State Police but no one seems to be sure of the locations of route crossings for this year. Any additional information on route crossings would be greatly appreciated.

      • Becca on 04.20.2014 at 7:54 pm

        I think you will be able to go through the Kenmore T station to cross over.

    • emma on 04.20.2014 at 4:46 pm

      i bet you can cross underground at kenmore station.

      • Kristina Roman, BU Today on 04.20.2014 at 8:02 pm

        Per Captain Robert Molloy of the BUPD, there will be a checkpoint at Carlton Street and Beacon where pedestrians can cross. As to backpacks, Capt Molloy says Boston Police are strongly urging people not to wear backpacks along the marathon route. While they are not prohibited, they are discouraged. Anyone with one may be stopped and their backpacks searched.

        • Help Please? on 04.20.2014 at 11:01 pm

          Thank you so much Kristina! Brian, Becca, emma (thank you also), I stopped a cop and he told me we can still cross under Comm Ave via the T stop, from the Commonwealth Hotel to Bruegger’s so to say. That’s what I did last year, but now… good luck to us all!

          • Help Please? on 04.21.2014 at 5:17 pm

            well folks, IT WAS NOT EASY. But the Police Officers were all very sweet and I am only grateful (though the throngs of people who had to go through checkpoints were whispering “this is silly”. I haven’t said that, right?) It did take over 45 minutes, my standard 10-minute walk. But I do have to say I’m only grateful. Yes, the Kenmore Sq T-stop did it. If you forgive me a frivolous question, and if anyone knows whether the newspapers’ boxes on the street level will ever return, I’d be grateful to know! They were my sole perk.

    • Kristina Roman, BU Today on 04.20.2014 at 8:04 pm

      Per BUPD Chief Thomas Robbins: Best advice would be to plan to get to your destination early and approach a police officer for assistance, if needed once the race has started.

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