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NYC Marathon watchers urged to stay away from finish

New York City Police Dept. bomb sniffing dog

New York City Police Dept. bomb sniffing dog Ray, a four-year-old Labrador Retriever, smells a journalists bags during a security demonstration for Sunday's New York City Marathon at a news conference in the Joint Operations Center at police headquarters in New York. (Nov. 1, 2013) Credit: AP

New York City Marathon spectators are being urged not to gather at the finish line Sunday, as authorities beef up security in response to the Boston bombings.

New York Road Runners Club president Mary Wittenberg strongly encouraged New Yorkers and race fans to avoid milling around at the finish in Central Park.

"Whether it is resident New Yorkers, fans of the race . . . stay away from that area," Wittenberg said Friday.

She also encouraged runners' friends and family to meet them away from the finish line in hotels, restaurants or other places. With such a heavy police presence, spectators can expect bags to be examined, Wittenberg advised.

Forty-three specially trained police dogs will be part of the massive security detail in the largest ever anti-terrorism operation carried out across the five boroughs, officials said.

NYPD officials visited in recent weeks with Boston officials to go over events that rocked that city in April when terrorists set off two homemade bombs near the finish of the marathon there, killing three and injuring hundreds of spectators.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly declined to say Friday how many officers would be involved, but he acknowledged that the overtime bill for the city will be substantial.

Large coolers and pets should be left at home, as well as backpacks and water bottles larger than a liter, Kelly and race officials said.

New elements of the plan include more bomb-sniffing dogs on patrol, high-tech explosives-detection equipment, police boats and divers stationed on the city's waterways, intensive video surveillance, and the presence of thousands of additional private security workers, police officers and plainclothes law enforcement agents.

Kelly introduced to the media Ray, a black Labrador retriever who is trained to detect explosives. The canine, who was named after NYPD Officer Ramon Suarez, who died on Sept. 11, frolicked at times with a yellow rubber toy.

She will be among the dozens of dogs who will patrol the 26-mile route, police said.

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

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