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Sonoma County runners return to Boston Marathon

  • Debbie DeCarli runs around Spring Lake in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. DeCarli will be running in her eighth Boston Marathon this year. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

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.

Local Boston Marathon Runners

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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.


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