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On Sunday, thousands of runners will Clinch Avenue in downtown Knoxville for the start of the 2013 Covenant Health Marathon.

The course will look similar to returning racers, but all participants and spectators will notice something different this year: increased security.

"You always have to be prepared for the worst, but expect the best," said Race Director, Jason Altman.

Marathons around the country are boosting security following the 2013 terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon that left three people dead and more than 200 injured.

Altman said, in Knoxville, race organizers have always been prepared for any kind of weather, inclement conditions, and safety threats on race day – but what happened in Boston has renewed their focus on security.

"Once it happened in Boston, you say—this could really happen anywhere, so you have to be prepared for that," he said.

For security reasons, Altman would only share some elements of the new safety protocol.

He said to expect a higher police presence, which includes bomb sniffing dogs, on race day. In previous years, runners could drop off bags at the start line and a vehicle would drop them off at the finish. Altman said that tradition will continue – but this year the bags will be made of a clear, see-through material and subject to search.

He added, access to the finish line in Neyland Stadium will be more restricted. Spectators can only enter through one area this year: Gate 21.

James Ramos logged a four-mile training run in the cold Tuesday afternoon. He will be running his first full marathon at the race Sunday.

"Never thought I'd say that I love running, but I'm getting there," he joked.

Ramos said he has never felt unsafe running in Knoxville, and has no concerns for Sunday.

"I have no worries," he said. "I trust they're going to do their best to take care of everybody and we'll go from there."

"It makes me feel better about running and my safety, and my fellow runners' safety," said Kaitlin Hensley, who is running a four-person relay this year.

Hensley said she is not surprised by the increased security.

"You don't want to think the worst of people, but it happens," she said.

For more information about the 2014 race, visit WBIR's Covenant Health Marathon page or the Covenant Health Marathon website.

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