The executive vice president and technical director of the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Peter Ciaccia said there would be at least 49,000 participants in the marathon this year, about 1,500 more than in 2011. The higher number is from runners resuming their tickets from last year, he said.
The 2012 marathon was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy and runners were offered three different return options: this year, 2014, or 2015.
“Many folks have opted to come back and run with us this year,” he said estimating that 50 to 60 percent of runners are 2012 applicants.
The New York City Marathon is among the world’s largest marathons, with 47,340 runners finishing in 2011. It is also highly regarded. Ciaccia said at least 100 professional runners would compete this year, including a strong contingent of wheelchair professionals.
Security at this year’s New York Marathon however will be tight. That decision was prompted by concern over the Boston Marathon bombings in April when three people were killed and over 200 injured from the bombs detonated near the finish line.
Speaking to foreign press in Central Park on Friday, Ciaccia said security during this year’s New York marathon would be noticeable, particularly at the check-in process for runners. It will include pat downs and a requirement for all gear to be carried in clear plastic bags.
There will also be new procedures for people entering Central Park; more intense identification procedures, particularly for staff and volunteers; and a big police presence, including sniffer dogs. There will be “a whole lot of behind the scenes security,” as well, he said, declining to elaborate further.
The NYRR is planning to have a balanced approach to the new security measures, not to overdo it.
“We don’t want people to feel they have landed in a police state,” Ciaccia said.
It was important to retain the celebratory nature of the event, he said. “We want the runners to feel comfortable and we know that they will feel comfortable because of our security measures.”
Just over 26 miles long, the New York City Marathon courses through five boroughs and across five bridges. The widespread nature of the event was a factor in the marathon’s cancellation last year. The race starts on Staten Island, one of the worst hit areas by Hurricane Sandy, which would have been run through a landscape of devastation.
The decision to cancel the marathon had also been difficult, never having missed a year since its inception in 1970, including after 9/11, and so it had come late preventing many people from changing their travel plans.
With that in mind, Ciaccia said they would be monitoring the weather closely. They have developed a range of backup plans, which include reconfiguring the race course and delay options if the conditions turn bad.
“We are even looking right now at possible ways to push the marathon off a few days,” he said.
The New York City Marathon generates around $350 million for the city, Ciaccia said and this year it will be broadcast for the first time on sports broadcasters ESPN.
This year will also be the last time ING Groep N.V., sponsors the marathon after doing so since 2003. Ciaccia said there has been much interest from other companies and a new sponsor would be announced before the race day of Nov. 3.