Security stepped up for Fairfield Half Marathon
It's certainly not as large, nor as well known, as the Boston Marathon, but the Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon that hits the road Sunday has grown over its 33 years from 165 runners its first year to nearly 6,000 entrants for this year's main event and Saturday's 5k run.
And with the terrorist bombing that killed three and injured dozens at the Boston Marathon in April still fresh in Fairfield race planners' minds, security has become a particular priority for the race, which draws top athletes from Ethiopia, Kenya, Russia and the U.S. over its 13.1-mile course through Fairfield and Westport.
"There's a number of things we're doing to ensure a safe and enjoyable event," said race director Steve Lobdell. "No. 1, we've increased the number of police officers in and around Jennings Beach and around the course."
In addition, Lobdell, a retired Fairfield fire lieutenant and the race founder, said, there will be about 20 members of the town's Community Emergency Response Team, augmented by members of the Police Explorers, "to add another set of eyes and ears" along the race course.
Probably the biggest change, Lobdell said, is that runners can no longer leave their bags or backpacks at Jennings Beach.
More InformationFairfield Half Marathon course
The Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon will hit the road at 8:30 a.m. Sunday at Jennings Beach, onto Fairfield Beach Road, west to Rowland Road, north to Oldfield Road. Then briefly north on Sasco Hill Road, west onto Harbor Road and Pequot Avenue, and then heads into Westport, west along Beach Avenue to Greens Farms Road and looping back into Fairfield via Oxford Road to Westway and onto Harbor Road, then east on Oldfield to the Old Post Road, turning south onto South Benson, then Judd Road onto Beach Road and heading toward the finish line back at Jennings Beach.
A map of the course can be found at www.fairfieldhalf.org
"We're giving out 18-by-20-inch clear plastic bags," he said. Participants put their race number on the bag and bring it to a baggage claim area.
The bags are large enough to hold a hand towel, shirt, light pullover, sandals and a few small personal items.
They will be given to runners when they arrive at the downtown and Fairfield Metro train station parking lots, which are the staging areas for the shuttle buses to the Jennings Beach starting line.
Participants parking in one of the beach lots, which fill up early, are being told to leave personal items in their vehicles.
While normally about 400 to 500 runners have made use of the race's baggage claim area in the past, Lobdell expects that number will be closer to 3,000 this year.
Lobdell also took a Federal Emergency Management Agency class on sporting events and crisis management, which he said has proved to be helpful.
"We're working with the Police Department, and other town departments," he said. "You might see a police dog or two along the route," which includes a stretch in Westport for the first time in several years.
"There's an enhanced awareness because of Boston," Lobdell said. "It's actually a lot of work, but we still want to be able to process runners, keep lines short and do a good job, so we have a lot more volunteers."
There will be more ambulances along the route, as well as an increased number of firefighters.
Lobdell said they're also prepared for weather-related problems, using a color-coded flag system to warn when temperatures get over 75 degrees.
Deputy Police Chief Chris Lyddy said there have been no threats related to the half marathon, but precautions are being taken.
"All unattended bags are subject to search," Lyddy said, " and our increased police presence will be both uniformed and plainclothes officers."
The department will also deploy canines trained to sniff out explosives, he said.
Both Lobdell and Lyddy hope runners and spectators alike will report anything they see that appears to be out of the ordinary.
"We ask that people keep an eye out," Lobdell said, for anything suspicious and to report it if they do see something. "The bottom line is, we want to be ready if something does happen."
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