AKRON, Ohio - Runners and spectators will notice several security enhancements at Saturday's Akron Marathon, including pat-downs of family members and fans entering Canal Park.
Akron Police Captain Dan Zampelli said extra precautions are being taken for the race in light of the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April.
About 15,000 runners and 120,000 spectators are expected to line the 26.2-mile course throughout the city of Akron. The finish line is inside the stadium. The pat-downs may slow entry into Canal Park, but a security team, which started planning improvements in May, believes the searches will make the event safer.
"Obviously, we have to look more closely at safety, knowing that what happened in Boston can happen anywhere," Zampelli said.
In addition, backpacks are highly discouraged and all bags are subject to search in all race areas along the course. Runners will be given FedEx Custom Critical Gear bags, the only bags that will be collected at gear check.
"What we're looking for is that there are no weapons or anything that could harm anybody," Zampelli said.
Police said runners should also expect to see a larger number of police officers and bomb-sniffing dogs at the starting line. In addition, an incident command communication system will be used to help hundreds of law enforcement officers anticipate problems, prevent incidents and take a multidisciplinary approach if problems arise.
Despite the heightened security, police stressed there have not been any threats to the Akron Marathon.
"The FBI and others who have been monitoring social media sites and other types of intelligent-gathering sources have not seen anything that we need to be concerned about," Zampelli said.
Becki Spellman, one of the favorites to win the half marathon, said the extra security will not cause race-day jitters for her.
"I think it's pointless to worry about something I can't control and I hope that others do the same," Spellman said.
This marks the 11th year for the Akron Marathon. The races start at 7 a.m.
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