The afternoon of April 15, Beth Shluger's daughter had texted her mother a picture of herself standing in front of the row of flags from different countries represented by runners in the Boston Marathon — right where the first of two bombs would explode a few hours later.
Shluger had been in Boston that weekend promoting her ING Hartford Marathon at the Boston Marathon race expo. The Hartford Marathon race director was driving home and was almost in Waterford when she got a text about the bombings.
For a while, like many people who knew people in Boston that day, Shluger was frantic. She had no idea where her daughter was at the time of the bombings and couldn't get in touch with her. She couldn't get hold of the people who worked for her, two of whom she knew were somewhere near the finish line. Photographers she knew were there. Timers. Dave McGillivray, the Boston Marathon race director.
"I was sobbing — I couldn't find my daughter and couldn't find my staff," Shluger said. "Finally my daughter texted me. It seemed like hours, but it was probably only 10 minutes. She said, 'What's up?' "
Everybody Shluger knew was safe. But three people died that day and hundreds more were wounded, both physically and psychologically.
On Oct. 12, Shluger will stand at the starting line of the Hartford Marathon, which also has a half-marathon, a 5K and a relay. It's one of the biggest events the city of Hartford hosts. More than 12,000 runners are expected, and she wants them to feel safe.
"We obviously are planning more than we've ever planned," Shluger said. "We have great relationships with [the Hartford Police Department]. They have lots of resources and they're bringing in more resources. We all have the same mission — to make sure we put on a really safe event."
There will be small changes that runners will be able to see. For example, runners will be provided with see-through gear bags to store their stuff, and they won't be allowed to put a whole backpack into the clear bags. All bags will be subject to search.
There will be more personnel in the medical tent who are better equipped to handle any kind of situation. The volunteers are likewise trained to deal with different situations than they have been in the past.
There will be a higher police presence on the course. There will even be a police presence in the race — Brian Foley, a lieutenant in the Hartford Police Department and the commander of the major crimes division, will be running his fourth Hartford Marathon. He will, he said, likely be working right up until the race starts.
"We have no indication, through our intelligence, that there are going to be any problems," Foley said. "That being said, the planning this year has grown significantly based on the world we live in, unfortunately. The FBI, the State Police, the Department of Corrections, Parole — everybody has a hand in this.
"The Hartford police — we have our regular patrol officers, our 'intel,' our specialized teams — without getting into it beyond that. There's been a lot of planning and meetings in regard to the marathon."
The bomb squad, which normally only comes out during July's Riverfest celebration because of the fireworks, will be out on race day.
"They'll be around in full force," Foley said.
There have been a number of marathons and large road races that have gone off all over the country without a hitch since the horrific events in Boston. But security plans have been changed now. At the Falmouth Road Race, which attracted 11,000 runners this August on Cape Cod, not a lot seemed different from past races, at least outwardly. But the police did do a thorough sweep of the press trucks and official race vehicles with bomb-sniffing dogs before they departed for the Woods Hole start.
"Our police department has [talked to police in Boston], so have our state and federal [people] — it's been a massive effort," Foley said. "It's not just Boston; there have been several marathons since. We're trying to build off that."
Some would say, well, this is Hartford. That was the Boston Marathon, a much bigger stage upon which to make a statement. What could happen in Hartford?
Foley is not one of those people.
"We can't let our guard down — not on our watch, not in our town," he said.