With nerves still inflamed eight days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Miami police are asking participants in Thursday’s massive Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run not to bring backpacks or duffel bags to the downtown race.
A record 25,002 runners and walkers are expected to converge on Bayfront Park for the 29th annual event, and organizers have alerted them to travel light and be sweat-tolerant during the postrace picnic.
The warning to leave gear bags at the office comes in the wake of the April 15 attack in Boston, where two homemade pressure-cooker bombs hidden inside backpacks were detonated near the finish line, killing three spectators and injuring more than 170 people.
“It’s a very modest request from the Miami police department,” said Hans Huseby, organizer of the Corporate Run and owner of Footworks running stores. “Look, it’s the new reality for everyone. We’ve had a human-made tragedy at an iconic race. We can’t run away, we don’t want to fence it off, we’d like to keep congregating, so we make a small concession.”
The 3.1-mile run that starts and finishes on Biscayne Boulevard is known as the city’s largest office party.
Afterward, participants eat and drink with co-workers under 400 company tents.
Teams may bring towels and T-shirts for those who want to change, “or we can rely on a nice evening breeze,” Huseby said.
He’s not sure how strictly police will enforce the no-bag request.
“Miami is a hard town to get people to comply with simple rules, and this one is really reasonable,” he said.
Captains of the 884 teams are spreading the word and taking precautions of their own. Baptist Health South Florida, which has the largest team with 2,400 employees, will restrict use of its park tent to those with a race number and a green team T-shirt, and they will be given a pink wristband upon entry.
“You’d hate to have a copycat but, on the other hand, no one wants to shut down life,” said Baptist captain Leah Holzwarth. “We sent a mass email, and reaction has been positive. We’ve had questions like, ‘Can I bring a fannypack?’ and we’ve said, ‘Yes, just remember it’s not like you’re going camping.’”
Typically, about 80 police officers are posted around the course, along with five fire-rescue units.
The police department is not revealing details of its planned enhanced measures, but Huseby expects to see extra officers on bikes and Segways and extra police dogs.
“They’re working very hard to keep it safe and comfortable,” he said. “This is not a joke to them.”
Since the bombing in Boston, the London Marathon went off smoothly with extra security. The Miami Heat is using mesh trash cans at AmericanAirlines Arena. Other major events are adapting.
Organizers of San Francisco’s largest race, Bay to Breakers, plan to remove public trash cans for the famously rowdy May 19 event, which attracts 30,000 runners, thousands of unofficial running celebrants and 100,000 spectators.
The ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon, policed by nearly 400 officers, consults regularly with the New York City Marathon and may increase security in the bleacher area at the finish line, said Chief Running Officer Frankie Ruiz.
Huseby said he doesn’t think smaller events, such as Footworks’ annual Twilight Run in June, will be affected.
“All big events are just as vulnerable as Boston,” he said. “I don’t think smaller events would be targets. Let’s hope not. Twilight Run is in our own backyard. My grandkids do it.
“No matter what, most folks will continue to shop at the mall, go to the movie theater and run in marathons.”