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Volume 24 No. 117
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Boston Marathon Execs Balancing Looking Back, Moving Forward With '14 Race

Six months out from the '14 Boston Marathon, race organizers are balancing plans to remember last year’s tragedy with a focus on looking ahead. Boston Athletic Association Exec Dir Tom Grilk said, “The idea, in broad concept, will be to begin the week with tribute and to conclude it with the 2014 Boston Marathon, which will be much more about moving forward." Grilk last week outlined the organization’s focus on security, an increased field of runners and its hope to add new sponsors to the 118-year-old race. Perhaps the biggest challenge is the addition of 9,000 runners, which will bring the full field to a total of 36,000. That will be the second highest in the event's history after 38,000 competed in the centennial celebration in '96. The additional runners come after 5,000 of the approximately 5,600 runners that were unable to complete the '13 event will return for ‘14. The organization also will offer 4,000 spots to runners who have met the qualifying standards, as well as those most affected by what happened last April. Grilk did not specify any major changes needed to accommodate the increased numbers, and said that event registration is going smoothly. He also expressed confidence that the BAA’s organizational setup will be able to handle the larger field on race day in April.

SECURITY CONCERNS: Security remains top of mind for the BAA, which has been working with city, state and federal public-safety agencies to ensure safety guidelines are in place in the eight cities involved in the race, as well as for participants and spectators. Grilk would not specify any major changes to the BAA’s security approach, but did say it has not brought on any outside security consultant firms. Grilk: “There’s not a change in who is involved. It is simply a changed world for the people who do that work.” He said the meetings with the involved communities and agencies began earlier -- and have been more frequent -- this year. Grilk said currently no town has asked for additional funds to enhance security, but added, “Our willingness to spend money on security is wide open. … We look at this just the way all of our public safety partners look at it: We’ll do what’s needed.” Grilk said the BAA last year provided around $800,000 in fees to the cities, who can use the funds as they wish around the event.

ONE-YEAR-OUT REMEMBRANCES: Grilk said details are still being ironed out for an event to mark the one-year anniversary of last year's bombings. “The likelihood is a fairly large public event in the Back Bay in Boston with political officials and public safety and government first responders; people who were affected victims and their families," Grilk said. "Perhaps with something that could involve movement from a place perhaps to the finish area in order to have some appropriate ceremony. Precisely what it’ll be, we are discussing.” He did not have any target for when he hopes plans will be finalized.
NEW LOGO FOR JOHN HANCOCK: Primary sponsor John Hancock, which marks 29 years with the Boston Marathon, will honor the ‘13 tragedy by introducing a new mark on its signage for the race featuring a heart with the word Boston and a road running through it. This mark will be featured on the street banner program that displays signage on light poles along the course. John Hancock Associate VP/Sponsorship & Event Marketing Rob Friedman said the internally-created mark signifies “the road forward” and will be “ubiquitous” for all elements of the company’s marathon marketing. John Hancock also runs the Boston Marathon’s Elite Athlete Team, recruiting top talent to enter the field. Friedman said not only has last year’s tragedy not deterred runners, but it has had the opposite effect: high demand for a limited number of spaces. Friedman noted John Hancock is committed to its principle sponsorship of the race through '23, but added, “As long as there is a John Hancock, and as long as there is a Boston Marathon, we’ll be partners together.”