Balls Out: The Lengths Security Goes for a Race

Picture this scene occurring on a bridge of a metropolitan area: hovering helicopters patrolling the sky with deafening side effects, bomb-sniffing dogs erratically switching directions in search of hazardous materials, scuba divers lurking beneath in attempts of securing all angles of the hypothetical bridge and finally, a Coast Guard vessel armed with guns.

In my opinion, this whole description sounds like the precursor to a sub-par J.J. Abrams film. However, this scene does not in fact end with aliens descending onto planet earth, but rather with 50,000 runners with the hopes and dreams to conquer 26.2 miles. The New York Marathon took place this past weekend with security measures beyond comprehension, following the tragedy of the Boston Marathon back in April.

Runners came from all over the world with hopes of putting a time down fast enough to make up for the race they had intended on completing last year, but were unable to due to the cancellation of the event because of the disaster that Hurricane Sandy brought upon the city. After such runners were wanded through security prior to their start of the race, 1500 cameras lined the course to eye their every move.

Additionally, the supportive and adoring fans were forced to remain a fair distance from the finish line so as to prevent any event reminiscent of Boston from occurring. This, according to Dave Obelkevich, was one of the more disturbing changes marathon security implemented. Obelkevich has participated in the New York Marathon every year since 1976—well, and 2012 I suppose. Back in his debut race, Obekevish stated that fans were essentially on the course in the street, which resulted in the participants having to run in a single file line. Where other athletes might consider this a disturbance, Obelkevich said the experience was wonderful, as he could feel the support from the fans to push him that obscene distance. With spectators so far separated from the race, I have the sense that running 26.2 miles would feel a lot longer and more lonely.

A diplomat from Washington was at the event and said that the security measures did not concern him at all. He simultaneously chuckled adding that he was probably unaffected due to the fact that he is from Israel. One might say the fact that we have to take measures similar to that of a country with the highest security in the world for a road race is a little upsetting.

Despite The War of the Worlds-like scene, there were still a vast number of notable achievements, with the company of several goofballs dressed in tutus (which embarrassingly have found a common place in large running events). Both the men and women winners brought with them from Kenya some very quick times. Tatyana McFadden became the first wheelchair athlete to conquer the four big deal marathons (Boston, Chicago, London and New York) all in the same year.

Although the security led to the fact that no major tragedy ensued from this event, the bigger issue at large is that there were scuba divers. People were literally patrolling the water. For a road race. I merely think that it is a pretty unsettling concept that sporting events now warrant measures equivalent to that of violent nations.