Safety was on the minds of everyone at the Blue Ridge Marathon Saturday, but perhaps none more than local law enforcement. And fortunately, their additional efforts this year led to another incident free and enjoyable race.
Susan Noble has run in the Blue Ridge Marathon every year since it first began -- and she wasn't about to let fear keep her from doing another half-marathon Saturday.
"I feel very safe today," said Noble. "Police have bumped up efforts to help us. But Roanoke has always helped us with this race."
That's just what Roanoke Police Chief Chris Perkins wanted to hear.
"First and foremost, we wanted to make sure people came out and had a good time," said Perkins. "And didn't have to worry about anything else happening."
Achieving that goal took what described as a "mammoth undertaking."
More than a dozen law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels were brought in to assist Roanoke Police at the event. Bomb-sniffing K9 units were out early in the morning, sweeping the start and finish areas downtown. Trash cans and downtown mail boxes were emptied, locked, or removed prior to the start of the race. Downtown businesses were asked to turn their security cameras towards the race route. Secure areas were set up around the start and finish lines where runners and spectators were screened by officers as they entered. And surveillance teams were keeping tabs on things in the sky and online.
"I can't say enough about staff," said Perkins. "From everybody that's been involved, it's been super."
Perkins says it was about striking the right balance between keeping people safe and making sure they could still enjoy the event. Runner Megan Albert thinks they did that and says she wasn't bothered by the extra security measures.
"It's unfortunate that they have to do something that extreme [in the first place] for something like this," said Albert. "But I'm glad that they're willing to help out and make sure that we're safe today."
At the finish line, the crowds and runners got to celebrate -- which gave police a reason to celebrate with them.
"I think we've done what we intended to do," said Perkins.