May 2, 2013

Tying loose ends of the marathon, looking at 2014

Boston organizers never imagined this postrace scenario, and face unique challenges for next year.

By JIMMY GOLEN The Associated Press

BOSTON - In the foyer of the Boston Athletic Association headquarters is the Champions' Trophy that documents the winners of the world's most prestigious marathon. It shines from its perch above display cabinets stuffed with shoes, bibs and other artifacts of the organization's 125-year history, the finial atop the silver cup slightly askew.

At some point in the commotion following the explosions at the race's finish line last month, the base of the trophy was bent. B.A.A. officials seem less interested in how it happened than in getting it ready for next year, when they fully intend to update it with the champions of the 118th Boston Marathon.

"We're going to do this again," race director Dave McGillivray said Wednesday, when B.A.A. officials sat down for their first interviews since bombs killed three people and wounded hundreds more at the marathon's finish line. "This is not just about Boston anymore."

In a conference room in their Back Bay offices, McGillivray and B.A.A. executive director Tom Grilk discussed the tragedy that interrupted the April 15 race and the response that allowed them to be hopeful for next year's.

They would not comment on security -- deferring to law enforcement and elected officials -- or potential plans to expand the 2014 race to accommodate the thousands who have said they want to run Boston to support the city and the event. But both men said they were heartened by the way the community -- runners and non-runners alike -- has rallied around the race.

"The outpouring of support is overwhelming, to the point where we're challenged now with how to handle all of it, how to respond to it, how to direct these people who are looking to help," McGillivray said. "The entire running industry feels victimized. They need to do something, too. They need to heal and that's what we're seeing."

And it's not just runners.

Other Boston sports teams have been cheered by rival fans on the road and welcomed home with emotional ceremonies. Races around the United States and the world have included their own tributes to Boston. The One Fund, a charity established to help the bombing victims, has raised more than $25 million, and Grilk said the B.A.A. would donate $250,000.

"There is so much to be grateful for," he said, singling out the police and emergency-responders, the doctors and the race volunteers who tore through the barricades to get to the wounded.

"This was an attack on Boston, on all of us. The overwhelming reaction from everybody around Boston and beyond is that we will not give in to this sort of thing. We are strong and we will come back. It is so sad that deaths occurred and horrible injuries occurred, but at least we saw some good come out of it."

At a time when the B.A.A. is usually winding down, it has, instead, just finished returning personal belongings to runners who were unable to retrieve them at the usual postrace pickup location. Those who gathered them up at the B.A.A. offices last week were given a chance to cross a replica of the painted finish line on Boylston Street, which is about a quarter-mile away.

Finisher's medals were still being mailed out to those who wanted them, no matter if or when they crossed the finish line.

McGillivray said the organization hasn't had its usual postrace debriefing, when it discusses ways to tweak the next one.

"After all, we still put on a pretty good race -- up until a certain time. And then the focus shifted," he said.

"We need to analyze that because we're going to do this again."

Much remains to be done, including:

New security procedures for next year's race. "There will be a great deal of work done on that, and it will be led by government officials, the law enforcement community," Grilk said.

Establish official times for the runners who were stopped on the course when the finish line became a crime scene. McGillivray said there is no timetable but the goal was "sooner, rather than later."

"We're aware of all that -- the interest in closure, completion," he said. "That's probably the next step."

How to accommodate the thousands who have said they want to participate next year to support the victims, the race or the city. "We haven't ruled anything out, but we haven't come close to making any determination as to what that might eventually be," McGillivray said.

 

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