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Security High As Runners Take Part In Two Races Around The City

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Security was increased in New York City Sunday for two separate race events, and a brief security scare prompted the NYPD Bomb Squad to rush to one race site.

Security has been beefed up citywide since Monday's fatal Boston Marathon bombings, and as CBS 2's Alice Gainer reported, the Run for the Parks 4-miler in Central Park and the 9/11 Memorial Run were the subjects of special attention.

From bomb-sniffing dogs to clear trash bags, police took no chances. If you entered Central Park with a bag Sunday morning, it was checked, and if you ran the race there, you were given a plastic bag for your belongings.

The Bomb Squad was dispatched during the race a man with a backpack riding a bicycle through the Run for the Parks 4-miler caused the bomb squad to be called in.

Bicycles and backpacks were banned from the race.

As 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported, police stopped the man. Inside his backpack, officers found a box with a toggle switch. Inside was a bottle with wires and a timing device.

"The bomb squad determined it wasn't an explosive device and the person carrying it said it was used in timing kayak races," NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told D'Auria.

Meanwhile, many runners took the restrictions in stride.

"It was new for us," said runner Koem Blanquart of New York. "We've never had this before having to stop showing what we carried with us."

Everywhere you looked, police made their presence known.

"This is one of the safer places to be right now," one person at the race said.

"It was a little more congested, but you think about it's for your safety," another said.

But some runners said while they understand the increased measures, they may be overboard.

"Disappointed is the right word. Disappointed that we have to do it, but we have to do it now. Even an innocent event like a race we have to make sure that we're careful," one runner in Central Park told 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria.

Over at the 9/11 Memorial Run in Lower Manhattan, security was equally as strict.

The 9/11 run began from Pier 57. As WCBS 880's Monica Miller reported, Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to runners and onlookers before the race.

9/11 Memorial Run Security
About a dozen police cars line up in front of Pier 57, the start of the 9/11 Memorial 5K race. April 21, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Cuomo told the people of Boston that New York stands behind them.

"You will get through this and you will come out the other end and you will be the better, the stronger, the more unified for it. I know that we were," the governor said.

Because of a fear of a copycat attack following the Boston bombings, special precautions were put in place. Trash cans were removed along the race route and authorities conducted bag searches. There was also a beefed up police presence to scare off any potential terrorists and officers used hand-held cameras in an effort to deter would-be terrorists.

"We're using our vapor-wake dogs and explosive dogs. We have towed vehicles away from the route itself. We removed trash baskets from the route. We've added police officers on scooters, we have our critical response vehicles," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told Miller at the 9/11 Memorial 5K run/walk. "We understand that people may be a little bit uneasy because of what happened in Boston so that another reason why we're increasing our coverage."

Security High As Runners Take Part In Two Races Around The City

Thousands ran in the 5K as planned.

"It was a little nerve-wracking but it's life and you can't let life stop you," one runner told Miller.

"You can't give in to them. If we did, they win," another runner added.

Comedian Jon Stewart came out to support the participants of the 9/11 run/walk who did not stay home out of fear.

"It's easy to forget when you see the chaos that a very small amount of people can bring just how many people there are that are the antithesis of that," Stewart told Miller.

Commissioner Kelly also stopped by the Central Park 4-miler.

And despite the increase in security, one thing was noticeably unchanged at both races – the spirit and focus of the runners.

Both runs turned into a tribute to the Boston Marathon. Runners wore blue "I Run For Boston" t-shirts and bibs and black ribbons to honor those killed and injured in Monday's attacks. The proceeds of the t-shirt sales are going to the One Fund Boston, a charity for the bombing victims set up by Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

Security High As Runners Take Part In Two Races Around The City

"I just felt really safe with… the good sense of camaraderie amongst the runners too," said Central Park runner Peter Baranowski of Chicago.

There was a moment of silence before the Central Park run and the unofficial Boston Red Sox anthem "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond was played at the start of the race, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

Marla Diamond herself was among the estimated 6,000 runners who completed the 4-miler.

The NYPD has been on high alert since Monday, when twin bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The explosions left three dead and scores more seriously injured.

At Sunday's London Marathon, security was extra tight but things went off without a hitch. About 36,000 runners ran the race, which began with a moment of silence in honor of the Boston victims. Many runners also wore black ribbons to honor the victims.

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