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Toronto marathon organizers, police to meet to discuss security

Debris is seen along Boylston Street after explosions went off at the 117th Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts April 15, 2013. Two explosions hit the Boston Marathon as runners crossed the finish line on Monday.


Organizers of the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon will be talking to police Tuesday to discuss security arrangements, after Monday's twin attacks in Boston, but they have no plans to cancel or change the May 5 event, where up to 14,000 runners from dozens of countries are expected to compete.

In the end,  vigilance will be the order of the day "because there's  no way to safely secure the route,"  race director Jay Glassman said.

"The venue is 42 kilometres long. Our route starts in Mel Lastman Square, we finish at Ontario Place – thousands of participants, thousands more spectating, running through the heart of the city - and there's no feasible way to secure the course unless you basically shut down the entire city and tell everyone to stay home."

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What's certain, he said, is that no one will be cowed by events in Boston.

Participants in this weekend's 10-kilometre Vancouver Sun Run, which will be still larger – 45,000 runners have registered – said the same, echoing the organizers of the London marathon, which will also be held this weekend, in a city that over the years has witnessed numerous terror attacks.

"The best way for us to react is to push ahead with the marathon on Sunday, to get people on the streets and to celebrate it as we always do in London," British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said, lauding the country's security apparatus as "the best in the world."

Also still on track is the annual April 28 Oklahoma City Marathon, which each year commemorates the 168 people slaughtered in 1995 when two American fanatics blew up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building.

In Toronto, Mr. Glassman said police would make the final call in whether security arrangements will be adjusted for the long run, usually overseen by 250 to 300 paid-duty officers whose chief focus is traffic control, but that no decisions have been made.

Right now,  he said, "Everyone is waiting to hear and see what they say in Boston, as to exactly where this (attack) came from and who perpetrated it."

By any measure, the security  challenges of a long-distance run are  formidable.

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Aside from the distance itself, marathons are fast-moving events involving tens or hundreds of thousands of  spectators and participants. As well they tend to  be international affairs, a blend of almost every ethnicity and skin colour, in which nobody particularly stands out.

Of key concern to the organizers of the other races will be whether Monday's attacks prove to be domestic or foreign in origin.

If the plot was hatched in North America,  the threat of a similar  event in Canada will shrink substantially, Mr. Glassman said.

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At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More


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