Authorities keep annual Holyoke road race secure - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Authorities keep annual Holyoke road race secure

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Nearly 7,000 runners and another 800 walkers took part in Saturday's annual St. Patrick's Day Road Race, and thousands more were on hand for support, as well as to take in the atmosphere.

What they saw was possibly the city's safest race ever.

"We're very happy to have the extra assistance," said Holyoke Police Chief James Neiswanger. "We couldn't do it without our partners."

Neiswanger said Massachusetts State Police and the FBI were both on hand Saturday, assisting the city and other Western Massachusetts officers with security for the road race.

"We've added more security than we've ever done before, but we still want people to come out and have a good time and enjoy the weekend," said Neiswanger.

The road race was the first for the city since last year's Boston Marathon bombings.

Neiswanger said that event will alter the way things are done from now on.

"I would call Boston one of the game-changers, but like everything in policing [things change]," Neiswanger stated. "Things changed from Columbine, things changed from 9/11, things changed from Sandy Hook, CT, and they changed for Boston."

While crowds may have been kept a little further away at the finish line, that did not seem to affect the participants.

One runner, who has taken part in the event seven times, said it remained an energetic experience.

"This is great because it's such a weekend event," said Joe Hegarty, a Springfield resident. "Everybody is out cheering. The whole way there are people out cheering for you, which is great. You do a lot of other smaller races and the crowd just isn't there, so it makes it tough."

And for many, the road race remained a family affair.

Sheelagh Roache has called Holyoke home for more than 50 years.

Her family said even the threat of rain would not keep them away.

"It's a tradition for our family," said Windsor Kinney, Roache's son-in-law. "[My sons] have been coming here since they were born. They're 7. They're here every year."

The festivities continue Sunday with the Holyoke St. Patrick's Parade.

According to the parade's website, the event kicks off just before 12 p.m.

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