AL HAMNIK: Pinkowski feeling secure as Sunday's Chicago Marathon draws near

2013-10-08T17:15:00Z 2013-10-09T02:48:06Z AL HAMNIK: Pinkowski feeling secure as Sunday's Chicago Marathon draws nearAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 08, 2013 5:15 pm  • 

It's no wonder Carey Pinkowski has an office phone, a business cell phone and a personal cell phone.

When they all go off, it sounds like the recess bell.

"I'm a very popular guy right now, if you can imagine," the Hammond native said.

Pinkowski is the longtime director of Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, held just six months after two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line at Boston killed three people and injured 264 others.

And now the world turns its eyes to Chicago.

"Boston is top of mind," Pinkowski said. "It was very difficult to process and heartbreaking. But my responsibility as director of The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is to move forward.

"I was on a Monday night flight back from Boston when everything took place, and there were race participants and family members that ran that day and told me: 'Hey, we're gonna run Chicago. We're gonna come down and volunteer.'

"There was never any pullback, never any 'I feel uncomfortable.' They have confidence in us and confidence in our partnership with our city police."

Close friends say Pinkowski is handling the stress of providing an incident-free event the best he can, but it's been difficult. The former distance star has created a raging monster with 45,000 runners representing most of the 50 states and 121 countries.

The first Chicago Marathon in 1977 drew slightly more than 4,000 runners. Since Pinkowski took over as executive director in 1990, it has raised more than $100 million for charities -- including a record $15.3 million last year.

You cannot do his job without tremendous stress. The abbreviated 2007 race, held in freakishly hot weather, took a toll on Pinkowski, emotionally.

And now, it's the Boston aftermath.

"The participants were committed to run in Chicago, and they're confident in our comprehensive security plan," Pinkowski said. "They've been very responsive to some of the enhancements that we're doing.

"Obviously, security is the lead story, but we have a very comprehensive plan. Everybody's stepping up."

A crowd of more than 1.7 million spectators is expected. Race officials would not release the number of law enforcement individuals on hand, but that's understood.

More than 1,400 medical personnel will be available.

I won't go into the new security "enhancements" fans and runners can expect Sunday, only to say they won't cause any disruptions and make good sense.

As race day nears and the stress builds, Pinkowski somehow stays focused. There are no "off" days or extended lunch hours. If he were any more prepared, he'd be wearing a bib number.

"There's nothing like race morning in Chicago. We've had to make 'adjustments' because of Boston. We've had to work a little bit harder, but I still enjoy what I do," Pinkowski said.

"(Boston) is something that we've had to address and accept and move forward from."

We spoke early Tuesday morning, and Pinkowski's phones were lighting up, one after another.

"Hopefully, some of you (media) guys will start asking me about the athletes we have running," he said. "This is probably the most athletic group of young men and women we've had -- and they're all healthy.

"I feel our course record is definitely going to be threatened."

That's a threat Carey Pinkowski welcomes.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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