Security Steps as Marathon Draws Thousands to Burlington, Vt.

The largest sporting event of the year in Vermont is this weekend, with the People's United Bank Vermont City Marathon drawing 8,000 runners and hand-cyclists to Burlington to compete.

Thousands of spectators are also expected to line the race route to cheer on the athletes.

After this week's bombing attack on a concert in England - and a string of other attacks on so-called soft targets in recent years - security is a top priority at the race.

"Terrorism is never far from our mind," Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said.

Del Pozo acknowledged there is always an inherent risk to bringing together so many people in public, but he promised preparedness.

"We’ve taken a lot of precautions," he told necn. "We're confident we can pull it off."

Steps like clear gear bags for runners will be in place, along with transparent trash bags, race director Peter Delaney of RunVermont told necn affiliate NBC 5 News.

"We'll have the venues cleared with the K-9 units," Delaney told the station. "We ask spectators and friends and family to leave their backpacks home for the day."

The Vermont City Marathon always features a large Burlington police presence, plus support from several other agencies, del Pozo noted.

Countless volunteers are also lending their eyes and ears with an aim to watch both the course and crowds.

Still, the chief asked the public to stay vigilant.

"If you see something, you’ve got to say something," del Pozo said. "Follow your hunches. People usually have very good hunches. We’d rather investigate a false lead than not get a lead."

This year, the Vermont City Marathon starts an hour earlier than past years: At 7 a.m. That should mean closed roads and parks will reopen sooner, and athletes should experience cooler temperatures.

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