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Marathon security will be tighter, but not ‘over the top’

Craig Bromley, president of John Hancock Financial Services, which has sponsored the Boston Marathon for 29 years.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Security will be tighter at the Boston Marathon after last year’s bombing but not so much that runners and spectators will feel caged in, said Craig Bromley, president of John Hancock Financial Services, which has sponsored the Marathon for 29 years.

Bromley, speaking Wednesday to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, did not provide details of the security measures, although some steps, such as prohibiting backpacks along the Marathon route, have been revealed by state officials.

“We still feel like this is a community event. It shouldn’t feel like a prison camp or something like that,” Bromley said in his speech. “So while security will be enhanced, it will not be over the top.”


Some 36,000 people will run the Marathon this year — about 10,000 more than usual, said Thomas Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, the organizer of the race. About 5,600 will be those who were unable to cross the finish line last year after two bombs exploded, killing three and maiming many others.

Bromley said John Hancock will give this year’s runners bracelets made from banners posted around Boston during the 2013 race. “They show us once again how we can take this tragedy and turn it into a symbol of strength,” he said.

Bromley, a Canadian, moved to Boston just a few months before last year’s Marathon. He recalled sitting in the stands with his family to watch the race for the first time. The night before the event, he met with Grilk, who told him what a “day of celebration” the race would be.

“We were simply enjoying the excitement of the day,” Bromley recounted, “and then there was that moment that changed everything.”

He said watching how people rushed to help the injured and, how in the coming days, the city pulled together changed his view about Americans. As of June, the One Fund charity set up for victims of the Marathon bombings, had distributed nearly $61 million to more than 200 people.


“From the outside, America can seem a very divided place: the red states and the blue states, UMass and Harvard, a sometimes dysfunctional Congress, the one percent versus everyone else,” he said. “But in the aftermath of the bombings, a different America took shape in my mind, one where everyone pulled together, one where there were no divisions. There was one America and one Boston.”

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has said there will be dozens more video cameras along the race route and multiple tools for smartphones and the Web to help the agency track and communicate about any issues — whether a suspicious package or fallen runner.

A few hundred emergency personnel and police officials will use cameras and a real-time map to monitor the Marathon from a command center in Framingham. That center will be in contact with mobile command centers along the course.

Bromley said the Marathon long has been part of the fabric of the Boston insurer, a unit of the Canadian financial services company, Manulife Financial. Thousands of employees have run the Marathon or volunteered to help with the logistics. Local charities and the company’s nonprofit program raised $8 million through last year’s Marathon.

“We share the passion for this great race felt by so many,” he said, “which is why last year’s attack felt like an attack on our family.”


Erin Ailworth can be reached at erin.ailworth@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.