- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

Increased security will be in place for the running of Sunday's 27th Marine Corps Marathon through the streets of Arlington and the District because of the sniper attacks, but the Marines are determined to have their day along with their 16,000-plus entrants.

"There's been constant discussion about canceling, but we have always decided to go forward with the race," said Kim Roberson, public relations coordinator for the event. "We will have over 2,000 Marines on the course. We are ready to go. The runners have asked us not to cancel this race."

"We have had several hundred phone and e-mail requests regarding this," said Roberson, formerly with the Arlington County Police, "and 99.9 percent of the requests were from people who wanted to make sure the race is not canceled. We've had more people calling because they injured themselves in the last two weeks than people who are worried about the sniper."

Nonetheless, the Marines have formed a task force to address security issues, which are even more of a concern this time than during the 2001 race following September 11.

"I cannot really get into the details with security," Roberson said. "We are doing everything that is appropriate under the circumstances."

The Marines said there will be security on the land, in the air and on the Potomac River. The police from the many jurisdictions through which the marathon runs also were tight-lipped.

The course begins at the Iwo Jima Monument in Rosslyn and winds through Arlington and the Pentagon parking lots for the first nine miles as well as the last three miles.

"I do think we're doing everything we normally do like shutting down roads," said John Ritter, public information officer for the Arlington County Police. "We're trying to stay lower than the radar screen. We don't want to attract attention. We don't want to say that this is what Arlington is doing. We don't want to put down the gauntlet for this guy."

Meanwhile, the Virginia State Police insisted they were operating as usual.

"This year, as with every year, Virginia police will be assisting in traffic duty and security," spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. "They did not specify [using additional forces]. This is not a problem for us, because it happens every year, it's part of our budget for manpower."

Sgt. Joe Gentile, public information officer for the Metropolitan Police, said most of the course through the District is considered park land that is handled by the U.S. Park Police and U.S. Capitol Police.

"I wouldn't discuss tactical issues. We will have a contingent of officers," Gentile said repeatedly.

The U.S. Park Police supervises much of miles 10 through 23, including an out-and-back section in wooded Rock Creek Park and along the Mall. Sgt. Scott Fear, spokesperson for the U.S. Park Police, said security for the race is a major concern, adding, "the Park Police are teaming up with other state, local and federal police agencies in order to provide a safe race for all."

The U.S. Capital Police monitor the course between miles 17 and 19, and the Pentagon Police monitor their grounds near the beginning and finish of the race.

The Army Ten-Miler, which began and ended at the Pentagon and wound through Arlington and downtown Washington, was conducted without incident last Sunday amid high security, including medal detectors at the staging area. Runners and spectators remained optimistic about Sunday.

"Concerned? Yes, but running anyway, especially after having let this person scare me into running 22 miles on a treadmill instead of outside," said Joy Langford, who is running her second marathon in hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon next year. "Let's just hope that if this person tries to take a runner out on Sunday that the rest of the runners in the pack will have the courage and resolve that the passengers on Flight 93 had on 9/11 and that they take off in mass through the woods or in whatever direction the shot comes from to capture him."

Said Kathryn J. Masters, who will attempt her first marathon: "I am running this weekend and am not too concerned. I ran the Army 10-miler last Sunday and felt very safe and protected. My only concern with holding these races during the current sniper situation is that the police who are blocking the streets for us and working security for us could be tracking down a killer instead. I kind of think the police resources that are supporting the races should be directed elsewhere if needed."

Jonathan Hope, who said he was running Tuesday morning just three miles before the shooting there, will be running the accompanying 5-kilometer race. "I will be out on course after my run cheering on all the runners I have no concerns," said Hope, who ran the last two Marine Corps Marathons but opted to run New York a week later this year. "The marines and military I am sure will be armed to the hilt, just like last year after September 11."

Said Tracey Dugdale, who plans to be a spectator: "I'd be more concerned for the spectators who line the streets near the exits to 395 and the Parkway than the runners who are running, hopefully moving throughout the entire course. I would imagine the only potential vulnerable times for the runners will be the start, the finish and the endless lines at the 'port-o-johns.' A tree might be a better option than standing in a long line."

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