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Police seek security balance for Boston Marathon

This article was published March 9, 2014 at 1:29 p.m.

BOSTON — The ladies of Wellesley College will still be allowed to plant kisses on passing runners and crowds will still flock to the finish line at the 118th Boston Marathon.

But a year after deadly twin explosions turned the race's festive final dash into a scene of devastation, police and organizers of the world's oldest annual marathon find themselves balancing security with its traditionally festive atmosphere.

"We want this event to be what it always has been, and that's a special day for the city, the best marathon in the world." said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans. "We don't want to change that."

But the bombing has affected nearly every detail of planning for the April 21 race as police work to beef up security along the 26.2-mile course. Participants who favor flamboyant costumes will have to tone it down, and unregistered "bandit" runners will no longer be permitted. Runners won't be allowed to stow personal items in a backpack but instead will be provided with clear plastic bags to hold a change of clothes that will be bused to the finish line.

And spectators will encounter security checkpoints along with hundreds more officers, bomb-sniffing dogs and other security measures that haven't yet been disclosed. Public safety officials are expected to release more details Monday.

"We are going to have a lot of security, but we want to do it more low-key so we don't alarm people who might want to come," Evans said.

Last year, authorities say two brothers built bombs out of pressure cookers, carried them to the finish line in backpacks and set them off. The bombs tore into the crowd, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

This year, spectators are being strongly discouraged from bringing backpacks, coolers, quilts and other bulky items.

"People have to realize that if they are going to come, they are going to be subjected to the possibility of searches," Evans said.

Police believe the expanded field and the "Boston Strong" solidarity that followed the attack could attract up to a million spectators — about twice the usual number. The Boston Athletic Association accepted 9,000 extra runners, including about 5,000 who were forced to stop last year and thousands more who want to run to pay tribute to the victims of the attack.

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