DOWNTOWN — Runners in the 36th annual Chicago Marathon in October will be prohibited from carrying backpacks as a part of new security measures in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year.
The city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications issued a statement Thursday saying that runners will have to pick up their bib packets before the race, when they'll also be given clear plastic bags to carry any food or clothing.
On the morning of Oct. 13, they'll also have to arrive at the Grant Park starting line through one of three security checkpoints at Jackson Drive, Congress Boulevard and Harrison Street.
Marathon officials put out a media alert to participants about the new rules.
The Emergency Management release made no reference to the Boston Marathon bombing, in which two spectators wearing backpacks set off explosions near the race finish line.
"It really shouldn't be an inconvenience," said Wendy Jaehn, executive director of the Chicago Area Runners Association. "Making runners use their own participant bag is pretty common practice for most of the large races I've participated in, and even some of the smaller ones.
"Our message to all our runners is to always read through all the policies, and plan for additional time," she added.
The Emergency Management advisory reaffirmed procedures it said were "standard for large events," such as having trained dogs sniff for explosives along the 26.2-mile race course through the city and its neighborhoods.
The 1 million spectators expected to line the course also will be subject to the random inspection of backpacks and other large bags.
Emergency Management re-emphasized that, as in years past, general spectators will not have access to the start and finish lines within Grant Park. Only race participants, credentialed officials and ticket holders in the grandstand will be allowed in that area.
The 45,000 race participants will have to pick up their bib packets, with identification, at the Health & Fitness Expo at McCormick Place before the race.
"As is the case each year, our top priority is the safety of all marathon runners, volunteers, spectators and staff members," said Carey Pinkowski, executive race director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. "We worked with the city officials and the Chicago Police Department to update our procedures so that everyone can enjoy one of the premier races in the world."
"They're doing everything they can do to make sure the runners stay safe," Jaehn said.
Marathon registration has been closed since a website snafu in March led officials to conduct a lottery to fill the final 15,000 openings.