The permits for next year’s Boston Marathon are already granted in Hopkinton, and planning meetings are taking place with communities all along the 26-mile route “a little earlier, and with a little more formality,” according to Thomas Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, which runs the event.
“Naturally, there is an eye toward security,” he said.
The early start and the focus on security comes in reaction to the two bombs that exploded near the finish line of this year’s race, killing three and injuring more than 260 people. Two brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia who were living in Cambridge, have been blamed for the attacks.
Grilk said meetings have already begun among communities and state and local public safety agencies, including police and fire officials, emergency medical personnel, and private ambulance services, to coordinate plans for the 2014 Boston Marathon, to be run on April 21.
There is also an imperative that came from the top to make next year’s race bigger and better.
“It’s kind of hard to ignore the president,” Grilk said, referring to Barack Obama’s remarks last April 18 at a memorial for the victims of the Marathon bombings, when he said the world would return in 2014 “to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder.”
Grilk said the race will be bigger, with 9,000 more official runners, and planned with an eye toward honoring and paying tribute to those who were affected by this year’s events.
But, he said, “We will live our lives the way we choose, and not be stopped by the actions of others.”
In Hopkinton, Ashland, Wellesley, and Newton, officials said they are moving forward with sentiment in mind.
“We are still in the early stages of planning, but I don’t think things will be dramatically different than in years past,” said Wellesley’s executive director, Hans Larsen. “We’ll work it out, and we’ll be a good member of the team just as always.”
Ashland Town Manager Anthony Schiavi said the local parade permit to allow the race is expected to be approved by the Board of Selectmen there at the Nov. 6 meeting, and that planning is moving along with no major changes expected.
In Hopkinton, where the race begins, the Boston Marathon is a part of the town’s character.
“For us, the Marathon is a way of life, it’s a part of the community here,” said Hopkinton Town Manager Norman Khumalo.
Khumalo said in light of the bombings, “our attention to security is heightened, but we celebrate the Marathon.”
“We’ll be ready,” he said.
Brian Herr, chairman of Hopkinton’s Board of Selectmen, plans to run in his 25th consecutive race raising money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He was one of the runners still on the course when the race was stopped last April by the bombings, but he is looking forward to another start.
“There are going to be an awful lot of people looking forward to this race, just like every year,” he said. “The town will be safe and secure.”
According to Grilk, there were 5,600 runners who were still on the course and unable to finish because of the bombings. He said the BAA has sent letters inviting those runners to the 2014 race without having to officially qualify again, and 5,000 accepted the offer.
Those 5,000, along with 4,000 additional slots for runners who meet qualifying times or run for a charity, will bring the total to 36,000, the largest since the 100th anniversary in 1996.
To accommodate the large field of official athletes, organizers are considering starting runners in four waves, meaning the race would last about 40 minutes longer.
Larsen said Wellesley has been told to expect to keep streets closed about an hour longer than other years.
Grilk said it is too early in the planning process to know exactly what security changes will be made, but that it is safe to say that there will be heightened security but it will hopefully not be noticed.
“Just like at the World Series,” he said.
The BAA is in the midst of a three-year payment plan with communities for reimbursement of costs associated with the race, expecting to pay approximately $1.8 million to cities and towns along the route over the next two years.
Grilk said that figure will be reevaluated because of the additional security being planned.
“Things have changed,” he said. “We will do what we have always done with these municipalities, and that is to partner with them as best we can.”