Inside the elite NYPD unit in charge of escorting marathon runners

MARINE PARK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- The responsibility of protecting 50,000 runners and some two million spectators at this year's TCS NYC Marathon falls largely on the NYPD. But one unit in particular, the Highway Patrol, is preparing and training for precision protection along the 26.2 miles of the course.

"We stay at a close distance not to interfere with the runner, but to provide a secure route for them," commanding officer Lieutenant Joseph Bell said.

With the race beginning on the Verrazano Bridge, the police escorts come from Highway Patrol Unit #5 on Staten Island. Lt. Bell will be on a motorcycle, with the elite female runners.

"We have a wedge of motorcycles that stays a bit of a distance in front of that," he said. "The 2016 Dodge Charger is used to pretty much clear and sweep the path."

Part of the training is being able to handle the new high-powered Charger that is part of the escort.

"We want to see if the officer is able to handle those situations," instructor Keith Brennen said.

The biggest challenge is working through a tight course at higher speeds. Motorcycles are even more difficult.

"The officers that are utilized in the marathon, they are interwoven into the actual marathon," said Sergeant Joseph Murphy, a supervisor of Highway Training. "They are very skilled motorcycle operators."

They are trained to expect the unexpected. And what happens in the event of a more serious issue?

"Establish a route and execute that route in an official manner," Lt. Bell said. "And remove somebody to the nearest hospital."

After beefing up forces in the wake of the terrorist attack, the NYPD expects a safe marathon.

"The NYPD and Highway Patrol have worked very hard to keep this a safe and secure event," Lt. Bell said. "So everybody should come out and enjoy the marathon."
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