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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.

Central Fire Authority budget woes

Central Fire Authority budget woes

When Jack Piccinini, a retired Santa Rosa battalion chief, was hired last spring as Central Fire Authority’s interim chief, his initial duties were clear: Hire a battalion chief and three new Windsor firefighters. Fifty applicants already were lined up.

But Piccinini found alarming signs in the budget, including:

— Runaway overtime costs of about $35,000 a month.

— Windsor fire was cutting deeply into dwindling financial reserves to pay for staff. Reserves, more than $2 million two years ago, are expected to drop to about $900,000 by the end of this fiscal year.

— Rincon Valley fire had unfunded pension costs and two aging, inadequate fire houses that needed millions to remodel with no funding in place.

— Unnecessary spending in ongoing legal and consulting work, which had cost CFA about $70,000 in 2015 for legal services not involving litigation and $130,000 over two years for human resources consulting. Little came of the consultant’s recommendations, which could have been handled in-house, Piccinini said. Former chief Doug Williams said the spending on the consulting work was necessary because he needed the input to run the fire departments.

Instead of hiring, Piccinini warned the surprised fire district board members of future layoffs and station closures without budget cuts. He reshuffled schedules to reduce overtime, putting himself on the battalion chief rotation, and chopped monthly overtime costs to about $12,000 without reducing services. But that’s only a temporary solution, he said.

Other immediate cuts included some of the legal work ordered by the fire district and all of the human resources consulting work.

“The board didn’t realize the gravity of the financial situation,” Piccinini said. “The budget was not well managed.”

— Randi Rossmann

Asked whether he ever foresaw the day when races would have to implement such measures, Webb replied, "Oh God, no. When I first started, there were just a few marathons. There was nothing like this."

Runners said they aren't concerned for their safety in Boston. "I say of all the years to run it, this is probably the safest year," said Kelly Clark, a stay-at-home mother from Rohnert Park who will be running her first Boston Marathon.

However, a bomb hoax in Boston this week near the finish line of this year's race rattled nerves and resulted in the arrest of a 25-year-old man, who was captured on video running down Boylston Street with a black knapsack that contained a rice cooker.

Last year, two pressure cooker bombs in black knapsacks detonated about 12 seconds apart starting at 2:49 p.m. at the Boylston Street finish line. Suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in the ensuing manhunt. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, faces the death penalty if convicted of federal charges for his alleged role in the attack.

The attacks killed two women and an 8-year-old boy. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer was shot and killed three days later, allegedly by the bombers. The hundreds of injured included runners and spectators, many of whom suffered severe injuries resulting in amputations.

A number of new security measures have been implemented for this year's marathon, including a ban on runners carrying bags. Runners also have been told what they can and cannot have on them during the event. Fanny packs are in. Costumes are out.

As usual, runners will be bused before dawn on Monday from downtown Boston to the town of Hopkinton, where they will decamp at a high school. They will start the marathon in waves according to their qualifying times, with the first wave set for 7 a.m. Pacific time. The event will be streamed live online at http://watchlive.baa.org/.

The famed course winds through narrow and wooded streets before heading past Wellesley College, where young women traditionally line up and bestow kisses on passing runners. After braving the Newton Hills, including the infamous Heartbreak Hill, runners head into Boston proper and onto Boylston Street, where cheering typically greets finishers.

Stephen Gamboa, a 36-year-old emergency and family medicine physician for Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, felt that jubilation last year when he crossed the finish line. But that changed back at his hotel room when he and his wife started receiving texts on their cellphones from people expressing concerns for the couple's safety.

"People were asking if we were OK and whether we were injured. We were like, 'It's a marathon, but no, we're not injured.' Then we turned on the TV and we were like, 'holy shit.'<TH>"

Santa Rosa salesman Eri Torres, 35, fielded similar concerns after he awakened from a nap following his marathon finish. He said he walked outside to a scene of chaos, with police officers running everywhere.

Torres and Gamboa said they hadn't been planning to run Boston again this year, if ever. That changed after the bombings.

"I didn't want my last memory of Boston to be that," Torres said.

The marathon will represent a homecoming of sorts for Santa Rosa's Kuanyan Huang, who earned a master's degree in physical therapy from Boston University.

Huang, 37, said she expects runners will focus more on the communal aspects of the marathon, and less on their performance.

"It's pulling people together and bringing people to the running world, which is great," she said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.)

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