When it comes to safety and security, the Marine Corps Marathon may be one of the most complex coordination efforts of any race in the country.
Unlike with other big races that happen entirely within one jurisdiction, at the MCM nearly a dozen federal, state, district, and county law enforcement agencies in the Washington D.C. metro area must work together closely to secure the 26.2-mile course through northern Virginia and the nation’s capital.
“It’s very intricate,” said Special Operations Second Lieutenant Ken Dennis, who has been a police officer for 23 years and serves as the Arlington County Police Department’s special events coordinator. He’s worked with every MCM since 1997. “Anything this run touches needs to be involved.”
The course begins and ends in the densely populated Rosslyn area in Arlington, Va., and in between winds through miles of National Park Service land and past heavily guarded national monuments, memorials and museums, and the U.S. Capitol. They’re beautiful sights for runners, but require extra layers of security for event organizers.
According to race director Rick Nealis, each jurisdiction provides its own security personnel, including the Arlington County Police Department, U.S. Park Police, Metropolitan Police Department, Virginia State Police, United States Pentagon Police, Metro Transit Police Department and U.S Capitol Police.
Dennis works closely with them all, in addition to Homeland Security and the FBI, to stay informed of any heightened threat levels. While some of the race’s security personnel are uniformed and highly visible, others are not. Dennis said plainclothes officers, as well as snipers, are present throughout the course, with some undercover officers running the race. The MCM sees many high-profile runners, as well, who typically run with their own security detail.
Aside from ensuring the safety of the actual marathon route -- blocking roads and access to cars -- personnel are challenged with “security for those areas that aren’t so secure.”
About 1,600 local U.S. Marines from the Marine Corps Installation Command: National Capital Region also support the MCM’s various checkpoints and water stations, and cheer on runners throughout the course.
Although they can’t officially work security detail and are unarmed, Dennis explained, “their eyes are just as good as anybody else’s eyes to report something that needs to be dealt with ... spotting somebody who shouldn’t be there.”
Runners and spectators should expect safety and security at the 40th Marine Corps Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 25, to be similar to past years, including having to pass through checkpoints to get to the start and finish lines.
However, as with any event in Washington D.C., people should always be prepared for additional security measures to be added leading up to race day as event organizers are continuously briefed by law enforcement agencies on potential safety issues.
This article originally appeared at RunnersWorld.com.