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Chicago Marathon runners take security in stride

Thirty-eight-old Maickel Melamed of Venezuela worked to make it back to Grant Park and the finish line when the crowds would be gone and many of the other Chicago Marathon finishers will have already turned in for the night by the time he's done, but none of that matters.
October 14, 2013 3:09:11 AM PDT
Chicago Marathon winner Dennis Kimetto of Kenya crossed the finish line in just 2 hours, 3 minutes, 45 seconds. The first woman to cross was Rita Jeptoo, also from Kenya, who finished at 2:19:15.

PHOTOS: Chicago Marathon 2013

Kimetto's time set a new Chicago Marathon record, easily beating the time of 2:04:38 set by Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede in 2012. Kimetto crossed the finish line alone with both arms raised.

Tatyana McFadden of Champaign, Illinois won the women's wheelchair division in one hour, 42 minutes and 35 seconds.

McFadden also won the Boston and London marathons last year.

She'll attempt another win next month when she competes in the New York City marathon.

Thousands of runners ran through the city's streets during the 2013 Chicago Marathon. The race started at Grant Park at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, and wound through many city streets, going as far north as Addison Street, south as 35th Street and west as Damen Avenue before finding the finish line back near the start. It goes through 29 of the city's neighborhoods.

With temperatures in the mid-40s, runners say it's a great day for a race. The hottest race day was in 2007 when the temperature reached 89 degrees. The coldest was in 1988 when it was a chilly 21 degrees.

With more than 40,000 runners taking part in Sunday's event, there were some medical issues that occurred but none all that serious.

"Typically what you see in marathon races are, vary from runners crossing the finish line and getting light-headed, something that's called exercise associative collapse. So we saw our fair share of that," said Dr. George Chiampas, Chicago Marathon medical director.

Many runners also suffered muscle aches and sprains.

More than 750 people required medical care but only 26 were taken to local hospitals.

There were no critical medical issues.

More than 1,400 medical staff were on hand to assist runners during the race.

This year's marathon is expected to draw 45,000 runners and more than a million spectators. Find the results here.

Runners experience sense of accomplishment

There were as many inspirational stories this year at the Chicago Marathon as there were runners.

Alicia Perla is sore but happy after completing her 3rd marathon with her best time yet in just over four hours.

"It feels good to run. It's nice to have a goal," she said.

The Chicago area resident was one of tens of thousands of marathoners who crossed the finish line of the 36th annual Chicago Marathon.

"It's an awesome experience. The people are wonderful," said runner Cheryl Pough.

The race stepped off early Sunday morning and finished in Grant Park at Columbus. Runners traversed the course which wound through 29 city neighborhoods.

Under the watchful eyes of an estimated 1.7 million people, among them marathon runner turned spectator Cindy Phelps.

"You'll notice a lot of people have their names written across their jerseys and you hear them call your name, you're like, 'Yes, I can do this,'" Phelps said.

One of the more popular spots to watch the race was along Chicago Avenue. There runners could be seen heading both north and south along the course.

But Judith Racht joined others at the corner of Fullerton and Clark.

"It's very inspiring," she said. "I bet there's a story behind every runner here. It's very inspiring."

And while most of us will never run a marathon, those that do say the thrill of accomplishment far outlast the personal and physical sacrifice.

"Every year I say it's my last one. This year is my fifth, so that's how many times I've said that it would be my last one," said runner Sharma Fallon.

Marathon organizers said that of the thousands that registered, about 90 percent of them actually crossed the finish line.

Security tight after Boston bombing

Providing security along that 26.2 miles course is always a daunting task, but even more so this year following the bombing at the Boston Marathon and Sunday new security procedures were in place.

The Chicago Police Department's forward command post near the finish line was complete with a bank of video feeds providing real time views of an urban racecourse. It's one of six operational centers where dozens of police officers were monitoring a video network capable of calling up pictures from as many as 22,000 cameras, most of them fixed, some of them temporarily set up for the marathon. Ground level to building tops, they were all watching an event that had only very minor distractions.

"We had some issues as we expected, unattended packages," said CPD Dep. Chief Steve Georgas. "People were setting bags down and backpacks, but our cops are vigilant, doing random inspections."

The run-up to this year's marathon included many post-Boston security adjustments - both for police and marathon staff which headquartered its high-tech operation in a huge tent in grant park. City departments, medical services for the taxed runners coordinated here. It takes a lot of people to run a race for 45,000. They'll soon be looking to next year.

"We'll get some feedback from our participants, volunteers, city agencies and those things that work well, we'll enhance and those things that need to change, we'll change," said executive race director Carey Pinkowski.

There was confidence going in that the focus would be on the runners and not security, and race day proved that to be so.

Security was heaviest near the start and finish lines. There was security all along route, but ultimately there no major incidents.

The city plow trucks parked on Columbus Drive blocking access to the Chicago Marathon start area were one of the first clues that security would be noticeably tighter this year.

Uniformed police and squad cars seemed to be everywhere. Bomb-sniffing dogs were a common sight. And there were plenty of undercover officers working as well.

But runners had been warned. They carried their gear to the start area in clear plastic bags issued by the marathon so they could easily get through the security checkpoints. Most say things went smoothly.

"Everywhere you look there's about 20 officers at the corner, about 14 helicopters in the air," said Amie Byrne.

Their friends and family also seemed to deal with any inconveniences without complaint.

"Especially what happened in Boston, we need them here," said Yaro Vasilak.

What happened in Boston, with two bombs going off killing three and injuring hundreds more seemed to be on everyone's mind.

Lee Ann Yanni has been living it. After the bomb shattered her ankle and caused numerous other injuries to her leg, she remained committed to running her first marathon Sunday in Chicago, with a support crew including her husband Nicholas.

"This is our first marathon since Boston, it's nice to put a good, positive aspect on what was not," Nicholas Yanni said.

Along the route police were stationed to keep the crowds in check. They paid particular attention to those carrying backpacks and searching them. But they report no incidents.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy at the finish line area to monitor security efforts that included help from county, state and federal resources including the FBI and ATF.

"This is a format we've been using for years. We've done this for years. This year we had to ratchet it up a bit based on Boston obviously," McCarthy said.


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