When Petaluma's Gloria Nunez steps to the starting line of Monday's Boston Marathon, she'll be focused on more than just her pace, staying hydrated and other strategies for running 26.2 miles.
Also on the mother of three's mind will be the bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 260 at the finish of last year's marathon.
The 39-year-old nurse and software developer said she'll feel a strong "sense of solidarity" with other runners gathered at the start in Hopkinton, as well as with the people of Boston, who are expected to turn out in record numbers to watch the marathon and to support participants.
An entire nation will focus attention Monday on the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, which before last year had been primarily known and celebrated as the world's most prestigious distance race. That was before bombs fashioned from pressure cookers exploded at the finish line in 2013, causing deadly mayhem and sparking an intense days-long manhunt across the terrified city.
Like Oklahoma City and 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings recalculated terrorism's reach. Few imagined, prior to the explosions, that anyone could be so depraved as to target an event that draws people from around the world in the spirit of friendly competition and personal achievement. But Google images of 'Boston Marathon' today, and what scrolls across the screen are graphic and disturbing images of carnage.
Santa Rosa's Debbie DeCarli, who finished the marathon last year prior to the bombs' detonating, still recalls the sound of what she initially thought were cannon blasts, followed by smoke rising in the air. As police officers swarmed around her, DeCarli ducked into a restaurant, where people were gathered around a TV.
"I got scared. My next thought was, 'Wow, there could be a bomb in this building. I'm out of here,'" DeCarli, 62, said.
DeCarli, a contract worker for Agilent Technologies, said the bombings caused in her a lasting paranoia, especially of people carrying backpacks. But those fears have not deterred her from participating Monday in her seventh consecutive Boston Marathon.
"I'm not intimidated. I'm not going to let that stop me and I think a lot of runners feel the same way," she said this week prior to leaving for Boston.
Defiance was a recurring theme in interviews with local runners who were headed to Boston. At least 31 Sonoma County residents are registered for the marathon, according to the website for the Boston Athletic Association, which runs the event.
"I want to show that runners have fortitude and patriotism, to be strong and run strong, and that we're not going to be scared by criminals," said Dave Houts, 50, a retired Cotati police sergeant who will be running Boston for the second time.
This year's Boston field was increased to accommodate 36,000 runners — up from 27,000 last year. The number of law enforcement personnel, including National Guard troops, also will double, to 3,500, with assistance from 100 additional security cameras and bomb-sniffing dogs.
"The runners, they're all positive, energetic people. They want to go back. They're not going to let something like this bother them," said Arthur Webb, a veteran runner who coordinates the Santa Rosa Marathon.
Webb, whose plans to run Monday were derailed by a family member's illness, said the Boston bombings forced race directors nationwide to rethink their security plans. The Santa Rosa Marathon in August, for instance, will include a beefed up law-enforcement presence and new restrictions on where spectators can gather.