Tacoma City Marathon adds security in wake of Boston bombing

By the time their flight from Boston landed, a message from the city of Tacoma was waiting for Paul Morrison and Tony Phillippi.

Shockwaves from the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing had spread across the country and now it was time to scrutinize the Tacoma City Marathon. More than 2,300 people are registered to run in Sunday morning’s races, and many more are expected to line the streets and pack the finish area near the Tacoma Art Museum.

While the race director and Tacoma police say the run won’t look much different than past years, behind the scenes that won’t be the case. “Nothing is really changing,” said Morrison, who along with Phillippi founded and directs the marathon. “It’s just that we are adding precautions.”

There will be more police on the course, which starts at the Tacoma Narrows Airport, crosses the eastbound Tacoma Narrows Bridge, winds through Point Defiance and follows the waterfront into downtown. Staffing also will be higher at the finish area medical tent and an extra ambulance will be on the scene. Surveillance measures will be increased.

An explosive ordnance disposal team will be on site, police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said. The team always has been available to respond at public events, but having it on site would mean a quicker response, she said.

“And we ask everybody who is there, if they see something, say something,” Cool said. “Anything suspicious at all, tell an officer.” If an officer is not in the area, call 911, she said.

“But we have had no odd calls or threats,” she said this week. The Tacoma Marathon Association will cover the cost of additional police on the course, Cool said.

While heightened security likely will be the new normal at events such as this, Morrison said, it’s too soon to know whether it will lead to higher entry fees at future races.

Morrison and Phillippi, who founded the Tacoma Marathon in 2007, are regular participants in the Boston Marathon and already have qualified for next year’s race. This year both had left the finish area before the explosions.

“I don’t feel scared about what happened in Boston,” Morrison said. “You know that feeling when somebody breaks into your house and robs you? That feeling of being violated. It feels more like that rather than being afraid of terrorism. Having the joy of the race taken away, but temporarily.”

To pay tribute to the Boston bombing victims, Sunday’s races will begin with a 26.2-second moment of silence. One second for each mile of a marathon. Beyond that, organizers will leave additional tributes to individual participants and spectators.

One gesture becoming popular since the bombing is for participants to place their hands over their hearts as they cross the finish line.

Morrison and Phillippi will be too busy working to run Sunday, but they say “bunches” of Boston Marathon participants are registered.

In fact, the marathon’s new course design could make it a popular draw for runners trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. To qualify, runners must complete an official qualifier marathon like Tacoma’s by a certain time, based on their age.

The new Tacoma route makes it a net downhill course, giving runners the best chance of posting their best times.

It’s a far cry from the original Tacoma Marathon, which was packed with uphill stretches and earned a reputation for being supremely challenging.

“I think people will really like this course,” Morrison said. “… It’s more user friendly.”