NEW YORK – Bomb-sniffing dogs roamed the streets and police officers guarded nearly every corner. None of the heightened security, however, could keep a record number of runners from competing in the New York City Marathon.
On a crisp fall Sunday, 50,740 people started the race – including the 1 millionth in the 33-year history of the marathon.
New York shined in all its splendor for a national television audience, a year after the race was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy.
“This is one big showcase of the city,” said Mary Wittenberg, president of the New York Road Runners. “The marathon is a good analogy. Step by step this is a long recovery from Sandy. You can go to parts of the city where they aren’t recovered. This is progress and that progress has to continue. I really hope that today is another good step forward for us.”
Charles Breslin lost his home in the storm. He was volunteering at the marathon and welcomed the race’s return.
“I don’t know how the rest of Staten Island feels about, but it can only be a good thing,” he said. “You have to get back to normalcy.”
This was far from a typical NYC Marathon, with the Boston Marathon bombings in April bringing increased vigilance. While fans could walk right up to most spots along the course to cheer as in previous years, security was tightened.
Security was tightest at the start and near the finish line, where garbage trucks blocked entry to Central Park and everyone had to walk through numerous checkpoints to watch the end of the 26.2-mile race.
“It’s a lot different than the past ones,” said Alem Kahsay, who has worked the finish line for the past 13 years and competed in five NYC marathons. “There are checkpoints everywhere near the finish. I’ve been working since 4:30 this morning and they had them then, too.”
At the start, runners were corralled into long bag-check lines and were constantly reminded to keep cellphones out. But if the runners weren’t deterred neither were the fans, who turned out in droves. Wittenberg remarked that she saw more fans in Brooklyn and Queens than ever before.
“How could you not want to come out and cheer,” said Sarah Davidson, who was attending her 14th marathon. “After last year and Boston, we wanted to show we’re stronger than anything. The extra security is just part of the world we live in today. I felt completely safe.”