The Boston Marathon bombing created some added burden — three extra pounds of weight, some brief uncertainty and now a pre-race security check — for Sean Shearon and his “Pound for Person” team of marathon runners.
Leon Gillum, security director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, said the general message race executives want to send the public regarding backpacks at Sunday's marathon is to discourage bringing them.
“But our private statement, if we have people who are contacting us directly, is that we have a procedure in place and a time that we can direct them to,” Gillum said.
The past two years, Shearon's six-person group has run the entire 26.2-mile trek with backpacks totaling 168 pounds, signifying the 168 lives lost in the Murrah Building bombing April 19, 1995.
After the Boston attack, which killed three people, Shearon decided his team would carry 171 pounds this year to honor those victims.
Wednesday, Shearon contacted Gillum to get clarification on what would and wouldn't be allowed, considering the Boston bombers used backpacks to transport their weapons.
Gillum apologized, but told Shearon no backpacks would be permitted.
“We started exploring options to move the weight, or carry the weight, or different ways to display the weight,” Shearon said.
But the next day, Gillum made arrangements for Shearon and his team to have their bags go through a special security check Sunday morning.
“We worked out a plan for the 168ers,” Gillum said. “We have a meeting place and a time scheduled for them to arrive so their packs can be subjected to a closer scrutiny from the bomb squad, and make sure we have everything safe and secured.”
Shearon, Eric Stanley, Katie Freeman, Jonathon O'Toole, Chris Murphy and Jason Loveland will continue the “Pound for Person” tradition after all.
Shearon, who served five years in the United States Marine Corps, said the decision to add three more pounds of weight was a no-brainer.
“It's pretty simple,” he said. “We carry weight for people who were lost in the bombing, and there was a bombing, and people died. So it's pretty direct.”
Gillum said other groups who contact the race authorities before Sunday can go through a similar search, and that anyone else who arrives with a backpack needs to be aware that they'll be searched.
“We're discouraging that, but if they do show up, they can be subject to a delay because law enforcement would have to take them somewhere and check that for their safety and the safety of the other runners,” Gillum said.