40,000 race amid heavy security at Broad Street Run

With Boston on their minds, 40,000 runners took part in Philadelphia's annual 10 mile Broad Street Run on Sunday, May 5, 2013.
May 6, 2013 6:49:56 AM PDT
Nearly 40,000 strong lined up along North Broad Street to kick off the 34th Annual Blue Cross Broad Street Run.

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The American spirit was felt along the race route from start to finish. From top to bottom, runners wore red socks, in support of Boston and kicked off the race to the tune of 'Sweet Caroline' - a Boston favorite.

"It's a great cause. 40,000 strong from Philadelphia to Boston with love," said Chris Hattal.

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After what happened in Boston, runners say this year's race showed how close-knit the running community really is.

"I have to say, it brought us closer together. I've never seen more spirit in the running community," said Lisa Berger.

Action News' own Cecily Tynan and Adam Joseph felt a similar rush after the race. Adam is a Boston native.

"It goes to show that in this country there is so much more good than bad and we triumphed over that today," said Adam.

While the masses raced their hearts out for Boston, runners also had individual goals.

"I was in bed in a wheelchair and here I am today," said Abby Pliskin.

Pliskin is a cancer survivor who was told she would never walk again because of an autoimmune disease. On Sunday, she crossed the finish line of the largest 10 mile race in the country.

"Today I'm elated and delirious because I told my docter I just wanted to walk up the stairs. He said 'I'm gonna take you down Broad Street' - it was his goal for me," said Pliskin.

While the runners ran their hearts out, no one could ignore the increased sense of security along the route.

Thomas Mercier, a SEPTA police officer, and his partner, Turk, canvassed the starting area of race before it even began.

Turk was trained by the TSA and Officer Mercier spent 10 weeks training with him down in San Antonio, Texas.

Their specialty: explosives.

"[There are] about 15 explosives that we are currently trained to run on," said Ofc. Mercier.

SEPTA's main focus was the Broad Street Line, which was packed with runners and spectators getting to the race.

One of the Regional Rail lines runs underneath the bustling feet of nearly $40,000.

"It's an open system. That's our biggest issue. It's not like we are stopping every person with a backpack and searching them or frisking people as they get on," said SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel.

SEPTA deployed its VIPER team, short for the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Team.

The five man unit roamed the Broad Street Line, keeping an eye for anything suspicious.

"Our main objective is that those people go home, that's my main objective that these folks go home safe," said Troy James, SEPTA Police.

The Philadelphia Police Department also stepped up their patrol tactics for the big race.

"I am just used to security. I appreciate it, no hassle. I don't feel uncomfortable and unsafe at all," said Beatrix Whitaker.

Authorities seemed to want to see what was going on along the 10 mile route and be seen doing it.

Ranks of officers deployed on foot, in cars, with K-9 partners and on bicycles. Sometimes the officers were actually riding along with runners.

Runners were not allowed to stow gear in back backs but had to use clear plastic bags instead.

Overall this Broad Street Run was closely watched by many sets of eyes looking for any possible threat.

"I think it's great. It happened in Boston, nobody wants it to happen anywhere," said Adam Hyman.

The mayor was pleased with the turnout of runners and the perception created by the high profile security effort.

He praised the police as well as federal agencies, which provided experts. He also referenced the city's helicopter.

"Certainly on a day like today we want to have eyes in the sky," said Mayor Michael Nutter.

Some police departments have petitioned the FAA to operate pilotless surveillance drones to fly over mass events, but Philadelphia has not.

"That's not something I want to get into today. We've got a run, we've got our security forces out, we'll deal with that issue at another time," said Mayor Nutter.

For the mayor, drones are an issue for another day. However, this day ended well with no incidents reported.

People were either running or cheering along the route and the mayor says that's exactly what you want on a race day.


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