The specter of the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April will be felt by anyone carrying a backpack, bag or even a purse around the finish line of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race.
There will be an enhanced police presence along the course, race officials say, and more areas will be restricted to volunteers and race workers only.
And workers will be at the entry points to the start at Lenox Square and at finish line in Midtown, searching bags and backpacks as a prerequisite for getting inside a fence that will be set up around the Meadow at Piedmont Park.
Race officials are putting out the word Monday: If you don’t need it, don’t bring it to the race.
Ben Dorfman, running the Peachtree for the third time, said his wife will have no choice about bringing a diaper bag when she and their infant child meet him at the end of the July 4 race.
“I understand. It’s the age we live in now,” said Dorfman, a 36-year-old attorney who lives in Grant Park. “I understand the need, or the perceived need, for it but I don’t think there will be a problem.”
Except at check points if people balk at searches.
“In the wake of the Boston bombings, you have to take the proper precautionary measures even though it might slow down the process of people starting the race and/or finishing the race,” said Ari Weitz, an Atlanta consultant running his fifth race “It’s something that has to be done to make people feel more comfortable.”
There is little police and race organizers can do to control what an estimated 150,000 spectators bring with them when they line the 6.2-mile route.
But there will be more local, state and federal law enforcement officers at the race and officials are urging spectators to report anything suspicious. The bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon were concealed in innocuous looking backpacks left on the sidewalk. Three people were killed and more than 140 injured. Many lost legs.
“As a result of what happened in Boston in April, we have worked very closely with the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department and several state and federal agencies,” said Tracey Russell, director of the race and executive director of the Atlanta Track Club. “We’re being careful.”
The APD alone will deploy 400 for the race. There also will be state troopers as well as agents from the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
“Planning for the Peachtree Road Race at APD is standard,” APD spokesman Carlos Campos said. “The only thing different is the Boston Marathon bombings were (at the) top of minds. We will be increasing police presence and have a joint operations center, which we have not done in the past.”
In recent weeks, rescue and law enforcement agencies have walked through different emergency scenarios “to ensure we’re prepared for any number of eventualities,” Campos said.
Colored flags posted at the start and finish lines and at water stations in between will indicate the alert level for security as well as for weather: green for low, yellow for moderate, red for high and black for extreme.
And a message posted on the Track Club’s website and sent in emails to 60,000 runners will be repeated: “Leave backpacks and any other unnecessary items at home.” Russell said.