The 2013 Chicago Bank of America Marathon on Sunday marks the first major marathon since the Boston Marathon in April, where terrorists planted pressure cooker bombs near the finish line, killing 3 spectators and injuring 300 others.
While it is impossible to secure the 26 mile route for an estimated 45,000 runners and 1.7 million spectators expected at the 36th annual Chicago Marathon on Sunday, security experts say spectator awareness can play a significant role in thwarting an attack, and saving lives.
In New York City's Times Square in 2010, two street vendors reported a smoking vehicle to police. An NYPD bomb squad disabled the car bomb, constructed from the same recipe as the pressure cooker bombs that detonated at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a press conference on Thursday:
"While individuals run, an entire city, an entire county, an entire world [will] come together to say that we will not be deterred."
Chicago Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy said there are no known terrorist threats to the city or the marathon.
If there were any known threats, city officials and event organizers would not likely share the information with the public, due to the fact the marathon draws an annual economic impact of $243 million for the city.
Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, heightened security has become a priority for large cities and venues that attract masses of people.
The United States Department of Homeland Security says it can be extremely difficult to employ security tactics on "soft targets" such as sports arenas, shopping malls and public space along marathon and parade routes.
Local and state police and National Guard troops were all present at the Boston Marathon bombing in April, 2013. While law enforcement officials said there was no prior knowledge of any specific threat, sporting events have long been popular terrorist targets worldwide.
Since November, 1994, terrorists have attacked seven marathons around the world, killing 14 people, according to a National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) analysis of its Global Terrorism Database (GTD).
“While catastrophic events like those of September 11, 2001, demonstrate how deadly terrorists can be, data shows that most terrorist attacks do not inflict a large number of casualties (injuries and fatalities),” START said.
Terrorism isn't the only public safety concern for marathon coordinators. Preparedness for conditions such as weather are extremely important as well.
In 2007, the Chicago Marathon quickly turned into a disaster due to several factors, including record breaking heat, communication breakdowns between marathon organizers and runners and a water shortage that left more than 300 runners severely dehydrated and in need of medical attention.
A TIME magazine report on the 30th annual Chicago Marathon debacle in 2007 read:
"Chad Schieber, a 35 year old Michigan police officer died, and more than 300 others needed medical attention from the city's overloaded emergency services — which were forced to reach out to the suburbs for additional ambulances — and fewer than 25,000 of some 45,000 registered runners actually finished the 26.2-mile course on an early October day where the midday temperature reached a record."
Lessons learned after the 2007 Chicago Marathon debacle include providing better assistance to runners including water availability and increased emergency responders for people in need of medical assistance.