New York Marathon security at 'a whole new level,' says official

Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start

Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start of the New York City Marathon in Manhattan. (Nov. 6, 2011) (Credit: AP)

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Security for Sunday's New York City Marathon has been ratcheted up "to a whole new level," race director Mary Wittenberg said Monday.

Wittenberg said the marathon will spend about $1 million on security, doubling its normal spending in response to the April bombings at the Boston Marathon.

The New York City Marathon returns with scars from both the Boston Marathon and superstorm Sandy, which forced the cancellation of last year's race.

"There is a tremendous responsibility," Wittenberg said, "coming after last year and coming after Boston, to have the very best day we can. We are mindful of people hurt by the storm and still in pain. We hope for a back-to-the-basics celebration of the triumph of the human spirit."

Immediately after the Boston bombings, Wittenberg said, she was in meetings with New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. She cited the involvement of 25 city police units, the Department of Transportation, the city fire department, FBI, Department of Health, National Park Service, city parks and recreation, even the Coast Guard as being part of the team preparing for Sunday's race. And roughly 11,000 volunteers were briefed in the fashion of the see-something, say-something campaigns.

Wittenberg said three private security firms were added by the New York City Road Runners Club, which operates the race, as well as extra K-9 units, apart from public security operations and NYPD counterterrorism units.

Peter Ciaccia, the marathon's technical director, said there will be a separate marathon communications center in Central Park, similar to air traffic control.

This year's 43rd running of the marathon has roughly 60,000 entrants, with 45,000 to 48,000 runners expected to start the race.

Last year's cancellation caused financial and public relations damage.

Beyond the $4-million deficit incurred in 2012 by race organizers -- through givebacks to sponsors, refunds of entry fees and falling $500,000 short in cancellation insurance -- the belated decision to cancel five days after the storm and two days before the scheduled race raised serious questions of priorities.

"Lesson learned," Wittenberg said, "was that we have to pause sometimes."

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