"You can't go out there," Jones said laughing. "You'll get arrested!"

Others said they felt the extra security presence.

"I can spot all the undercovers," said Sandy Thompson, 72, who came from Orlando, Fla. to cheer on her daughter, who ran the race.

Thompson, who works in security at Disney World, said she had no concerns about safety during the race. 

"You can't be scared," she said. "And I think if something did happen, they would pick a different venue."

It was her 49-year-old daughter's final marathon, Thompson said as she rang a set of red cowbells and looked on into the rush of runners.

"I don't know what wave she's in so I just keep ringing these things," she said. "I know my arms are going to hurt tomorrow."

Kathy Phalin, 51, of the Edison Park neighborhood, was also on hand in Greektown to cheer on her 30-year-old son, Ralph, who was running the marathon for the first time.
 
"We dropped him off at 5:30," said Phalin.
 
Phalin said she wanted to come out and show her support for her son and all the runners

Mark Murphy, 60, was running in his first marathon. He's been a runner for 30 years, but he's only run in a series of shorter races in the Quad Cities area where he's from.

"You should be doing these in your 20s and 30s," Murphy, of Atkinson, joked before the race. "We'll see if I repeat after that."

Matt Grossman, 28, snapped a few photos of the skyline over Buckingham Fountain while other runners sat on either side of him getting in some pre-race stretching.

This is also his first marathon. He's been a runner for only about a year and a half, but like Murphy, he has competed in shorter races.

Only Grossman was running with tendinitis in his right knee, the result of his rigorous training for the race.

"I'm going to give it a shot. We'll see what happens," said Grossman, of Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Armstrong family were all in costume at the corner of Halsted Street and Jackson Boulevard because it was their 3-year-old daughter Gwendolyn's birthday and the party was after the race.
 
Gwendolyn's father, Duff Armstrong, 34, said security seemed a bit tighter but nothing too outlandish. Both Armstrong and his wife Megan said they've run the race in past years
 
"It's not noticeably a lot different," said Duff Armstrong, who was decked out as the Cat in the Hat and holding his 1-year-old son, Paul who was  dressed as spiderman. "But there seems to be more security in front of the runners."

Robb Lucas, 41, was running in his third marathon, all of which have been in Chicago. He said this race will be a great opportunity to learn from mistakes he made in the other two, like starting too fast or tying his shoelaces too tight so he doesn't hurt his toes.

Lucas said he's run in many races and hopes to compete in the Naperville half-marathon in November. But he believes today's race will likely sideline him for a week.

Lucas said last year he was able to bring in his backpack. But this year, he couldn't. He, like every other runner, had to bring their belongings in clear plastic bags.

He arrived early to the Marathon grounds thinking security would be so rigorous that they'd be extra long lines. But he said he was able to zip through the line and get checked it fairly quickly.

Shawn Maxwell, 36, meanwhile, is competing in his first marathon.

"This is my first one, so I'm gonna make all my mistakes today," said Maxwell, of North Aurora.

His added bonus for finishing the race?

"There's beer at the end."

Earlier, a few uniformed officers stood by as a large wave of runners crossed mile four at LaSalle Drive and North Avenue at around 8 a.m. 

Neighborhood residents said they'd noticed no new security compared to years past except that newspaper boxes had been removed before the race.

About 30 minutes before race time, a few dozen runners urinated in some bushes across from Buckingham Fountain. It would likely be the last time they'd be able to make a pit stop for the next several hours.

Hundreds of other runners waited in line to use port-a-potties on the other side of the fountain. Before the race began, hundreds of runners waited in line to use port-a-potties on the other side of Buckingham Fountain.

Meanwhile, thousands of other runners scampered to the "gear check" tent so they could drop off their belongings. They were only allowed to carry them into the Marathon grounds in clear plastic bags.

Uniformed cops stood guard on two watchtowers on the north and east ends of Buckingham Fountain to monitor all the foot traffic through the Marathon grounds. There were two other watchtowers with other officers on the west and south ends of the fountain

At 5 a.m., a few dozen security guards from Monterrey Security began checking people into the Marathon grounds along the Jackson Drive bridge, just east of the course along Columbus Drive.

The guards searched bags at several tables set up in the middle of the bridge. A large sign affixed to the checkpoint detailed a list of items forbidden on the Marathon grounds:

*large backpacks
*suitcases and rolling bags
*costumes covering the face or any non-formfitting bulky outfits extending beyond the perimeter if the body
*props and non-running equipment
*bicycles
*pets/animals (except for service animals)

At 5 a.m. a few dozen volunteers had scattered along Columbus between the start and finish lines, and about 40 uniformed Chicago police officers also walked around sporting neon yellow vests.

For continuing marathon coverage, please visit the Tribune's race-day blog.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking