WHEELING - Law enforcement will be out in full force May 23-24 to ensure the 38th annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic and related events are completed safely, but security will not be as rigid as it was last year.
Race Director Robert "Scat" Scatterday and Wheeling Police Deputy Chief Martin Kimball met last week to discuss safety measures necessary to protect runners and spectators. Scatterday said the April 15, 2013, bombings at the Boston Marathon prompted authorities in Wheeling to heighten security for the downtown Wheeling event one month later.
He said, last year, police established a designated secure zone - a multi-block triangle surrounding the start-finish line at 14th and Main streets and at the intersections of 14th and Market streets, 12th and Water streets and Main and South streets. Plastic fencing stretched around the perimeter of the safe zone.
"This year, we will do away with the fencing," Kimball said. "But persons entering the hot zone can expect to be searched. No bags or packages will be permitted in that area."
Kimball said all security measures are not being made public but plenty of police officers, both seen and unseen, will be watching over the event. Scatterday said he anticipates more runners and spectators to participate in this year's event.
"Our goal is to make the race a fun, family event, while keeping elevated levels of security," he said. "We want people to come and take lots of pictures."
Proceeds from this year's race will help the Wheeling Fraternal Order of Police provide a merry Christmas to hundreds of Ohio County children.
Organizers of the 38th annual distance race, set for May 23-24 on the streets of Wheeling, have chosen to partner with the FOP and the group's annual Shop with a Cop program, marking the fifth year the Ogden race has donated its proceeds to a local charitable cause that benefits the region's youth.
During the holiday shopping event, Wheeling police officers partner with Ohio County Schools to assist students in need. Officers take the youngsters shopping for toys, clothes, books, games and more, providing them not only with Christmas items but also forging a bond with them.
Scatterday said assisting FOP Lodge 38 falls in line with the race's mission: benefiting children.
"Probably the strongest motivation to support the FOP is that, without their effort, some kids would not have Christmas," Scatterday said. "When we learned that, we just knew we had to assist them this year."
In previous years, race proceeds went to the Augusta Levy Learning Center, the Miracle Field of the Ohio Valley and the Howard Corcoran Scholarship Fund through the Super Six Committee.