Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon organizers will review security plans for next week’s race after a terrorist attack in Boston yesterday killed at least three people and injured dozens more at the world’s oldest annual marathon.
The Oklahoma City race was first run on April 29, 2001, six weeks before Timothy McVeigh was executed for detonating a bomb outside a federal building in the city on April 19, 1995, that killed 168 people and injured more than 800.
Race organizers will meet with federal and local law enforcement agencies over the coming days to assess any changes that may be needed in their safety and security plans, Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, said in a phone interview.
“I don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction and say we’re canceling the race or we’re going to have it no matter what,” Watkins said. “We don’t want to cave in to fear, but we don’t want to make an irresponsible decision either, so we’ll watch the intel unfold over the next few days and come to the right decision.”
Two bombs exploded near the finish line in Boston as recreational runners completed the 26.2-mile (42-kilometer) race yesterday. At least 128 people were hospitalized, including two children, and as many as eight were in critical condition, officials said. One of the dead was an 8-year-old boy, the Boston Globe reported. Boston police have no suspect in custody, Commissioner Ed Davis said at a news briefing.
The entry list for the Oklahoma City marathon, half-marathon, 5-kilometer run, marathon relay and children’s race, scheduled for April 28, swelled from about 5,000 for the inaugural edition to almost 24,000 this year, Watkins said.
The event contributed $950,000 to the museum last year, making it the single biggest fundraising event for the privately financed memorial, Watkins said.
The Boston race had 20 runners who are also scheduled to race in Oklahoma City, Watkins said. Among those set to take part is Bill Rodgers, who in 1978 became the first man to win the New York City and Boston marathons in the same year.
Oklahoma City race organizers are meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, local police and fire departments, and with city government including the mayor and city manager, Watkins said.
“It’s a very tough situation from a public event standpoint, so we’re going to have to use the best intel we have and make decisions day by day to know that we have the best plan in place,” Watkins said. “We have a very rigid safety and security system in place, with hundreds of police officers and thousands of volunteers.”
At least 34 more marathons are scheduled in the U.S. before the end of April, including in Salt Lake City on April 20 and the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon seven days later, according to Marathonguide.com.