Security tightened for Penn Relays

GETTY IMAGES The search for clues continued in Boston on Wednesday, as FBI investigators combed through debris near the bombing site.
GETTY IMAGES The search for clues continued in Boston on Wednesday, as FBI investigators combed through debris near the bombing site.
Posted: April 19, 2013

WITH THE Boston Marathon devastation coursing through the veins and hearts of runners everywhere, it's impossible not to feel some reluctance to lace up the Nikes and hit the ground again.

Thousands of runners and fans will converge on Franklin Field for the Penn Relays next week. As expected, security will be tightening its belt.

"Security is always a high priority," said Dave Johnson, director of the Relays. "We have always been serious about security and got even more serious after 9/11.

"We are aggrieved about what happened in Boston. Our hearts go out to everyone involved. We will have an enhanced security from the previous year. But I'm not going to discuss specifics."

If you have ever been to the Penn Relays, security is more than a peek in the backpack and quick wave of the wand. That might be reassuring, but does not completely erase the fear.

"We talked about it on the way over," Villanova women's track coach Gina Procaccio said at the Penn Relays news conference in the Donaldson Room on Penn's campus. "Security is tight at the Relays. It seems safe.

"It's sad, so sad. I lived in Boston for a year. It's so much fun," she said. "The community of Boston comes together. Everyone comes out even if you don't run."

Villanova men's track coach Marcus O'Sullivan was coming back from Florida when he got a text from his former manager's daughter. The news from Boston was at once draining and then a relief when he learned everyone he knew was safe.

"My heart stopped," said O'Sullivan. "It hits you deep. Sports is a bonding agent. It brings together countries, different cultures, ethnicities.

"It's hurts because it's a sanctuary of sorts. You can be at peace. You meet people who don't speak the same language, but there is an acceptance because you are waiting to race and you are both nervous and anxious. It creates a bond."

A powerful bond. O'Sullivan speaks for many runners when he says the inclination is to keep running, not run away.

"It's a joyous moment," he said. "And then it's sad. You have to move on. We are better than this."

Both Villanova coaches expect to bring strong teams to the Relays. Life takes a deep breath and sprints on.

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