Gasparilla director: This will change races forever - FOX 13 News

Gasparilla director: This will change races forever

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

In seconds, what should have been an exciting and amazing time in Boston turned into a tragedy. In Tampa, we are known for several big races, including the Gasparilla Distance Classic.

Many people are now wondering how the devastation in Boston could change races across the country, and the director of Gasparilla's race says there's no doubt races will now change forever.

The blasts were only about 100 yards apart - knocking spectators and runners to the ground. Some people ran for cover - others ran to help the injured.

Since the two explosions, we are seeing a lot of heightened security.  Armed guards and SWAT team members line the streets of Boston right now. They are also at hospitals and airports this morning. 

The organizer of Tampa's Gasparilla Marathon Weekend spoke to FOX 13 Tuesday morning. She also happened to be in Boston on Monday and was on a plane home when the bombs went off.

"At about 2:55 p.m. our phones just started blowing up from people making sure we were OK and let us know what was going on," Executive Director Susan Harmeling said. "And as Gasparilla's race director - it set me back for a couple of minutes because of what we might face going forward. This has forever changed the scene and feeling of the running event."

Harmeling also said yesterday's tragic events will likely mean more security for all races.  However, at the same time, there will never be a way to secure an entire race, she said.

"It's virtually impossible to secure 26.2 miles of roadway from something like this," said Harmeling, who noted the Gasparilla race used to be a full marathon. "I think the bigger issue is … to make sure we're prepared if something like this happens. We will always defer to the Tampa Police Department and what they recommend in terms of security."

Local police were praised for how they handled the Republican National Convention. Assistant Police Chief John Bennett agreed it's very difficult handling outdoor events, but he said you have to take marathons one-tenth of a mile at a time.

"Intelligence will only take you so far, and the public will make it as safe as they want it to be," he said. "If they see something suspicious, that's why we reach out to the community."

"You're striking a balance between safety and convenience."

FOX 13's April Kellogg contributed to this report.

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