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Marathons as 'soft targets' for terrorists? Why panic isn't warranted.

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Terrorists are “opportunists” who look for ways to cause a lot of casualties and bring attention to their attacks, says terrorism expert Frank Cillufo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. He does not believe they are now singling out marathons as targets.

“I think we put too much emphasis on specific events,” he says. “At this point, we are at a disadvantage since we don’t know their motive and ideology” in the Boston case.

Nevertheless, marathon aficionados are disturbed over the prospect that their events might routinely become terrorist targets.

It's not just that the races are open to spectators and have easy access. It's also that terrorists may perceive that they are striking at a collective expression of achievement, endurance, mutual support, and good will, some say. Many runners, after all, compete on behalf of charities, raising millions for worthy causes. And as Mr. Jordan says, marathons are nothing short of "celebrations of the human spirit," as runners set tough goals and then reach them. 

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