Bridge Run security changes compare with another big American race

By Stacy

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Against blue waters, the Cooper River Bridge Run makes Charleston's landmark shine. But on the ground, local officials want participants and spectators to know there will be changes.

"This is going to be the new normal," said Maj. Stan Gragg with Mount Pleasant Police. "The possibility of an incident is high. We have to plan for that. We can't wait for an incident."

The impetus for change is the Boston Marathon bombing that occurred last year. ABC News 4 reached a spokesman for the New York City Marathon which went on seven months after the Boston incident.

"We did a top-to-bottom review of our entire safety/security plan," said Chris Weiller, spokesman for New York Road Runners, the group that runs the NYC Marathon.

The Marathon worked with NYPD as well as state and federal authorities to improve safety, just as Lowcountry officials said they did to prepare for the 2014 Cooper River Bridge Run.

"We changed our baggage policy. We really try to encourage as little baggage as possible for runners, clear bags being used all the time. We really secured start and finish areas, more so than in past," Weiller said.

Bridge Run officials said they made the same changes. They asked people to pack light for race day.

"The Cooper River Bridge Run bags this year were clear. If you bring one that's not clear, it's subject to search. Bulky items are subject to search," Gragg said.

Strollers and costumes are still allowed, but discouraged.

"People who wear costumes are just going to have to know they're going to be available to closer scrutiny. We are encouraging people not to wear anything that covers their face," Gragg said.

New York Marathon officials said they banned costumes.

All of the planning worked out; they said the marathon ran on without a hitch.

"Everyone understood things changed a bit and they were very understanding. We really communicated heavily: a lot of emails, as early as possible. We reiterated information. We didn't assume everybody knew everything so we continued to message through all our communication channels," Weiller said.

Bridge Run director Julian Smith hopes he can give a positive review in three weeks.

"Everyone's going to come and have a good time. It's just going to be heightened security. Most people won't even notice. There's going to be more fencing. You won't even notice what's going on behind the scenes," Smith said.

Hoping runners who cross the finish line can do it to the sound of cheers once again.

Officials announced the changes to Bridge Run security last week. They planned to hold another news conference next week, they said.

The Cooper River Bridge Run takes place April 5.