Security tightened for Little Rock Marathon


LITTLE ROCK — The first Little Rock Marathon held since last year’s Boston Marathon bombings will see heightened security measures, the event’s organizers said Monday.

“What has happened at races over the past year certainly made us take a close look at how we operate security-wise, but we tighten things every year,” said Amanda Richardson, spokeswoman for the marathon, set for March 2. “As the number of our participants grows, it’s important to the safety of folks both on and off the course.”

Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when two homemade bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Chechen native Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged in the bombing; his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died in a firefight with police.

Among the new security measures at the 12th annual Little Rock Marathon:

• All bags will be subject to search in all race areas and along the course. Backpacks are strongly discouraged.

• The official gear bags issued to runners will be the only bags accepted at gear check.

• Participants and staff will be the only people allowed in many areas, including the start line, sidewalks leading up to the start corrals, finish line and finisher recover area.

• Family members will not be allowed onto the race course to greet finishers at this year’s race. Only runners will be allowed on the race course, including when they cross the finish line.

“Over the years, we have assembled a unified front consisting of Little Rock Police and Fire personnel, local, state and federal law enforcement, medical staff and volunteers,” said Gina Marchese Pharis, co-executive director of the marathon. “Every year new challenges arise and we continually look for ways to enhance our security plan for the safety of participants, spectators and all involved.”

Pharis said participants and spectators should expect everything from strollers to large purses to be checked.

“Leave valuables, backpacks and larger bags at home for the most seamless crowd-friendly experience while on the grounds of our athlete’s village,” she said.

Activities leading up to the marathon will begin March 1. Fifteen thousand athletes are expected to participate.

More information is available on the marathon’s website.