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Penngrove runner Debbie DeCarli had just completed the Boston Marathon and was walking away from the finish line when the cheers of the crowd turned to screams.

Two deadly bombs had exploded near the finish line that she had crossed only 10 minutes earlier.

"It sounded like a cannon went off. You know the big boom? There were two of them," she said Monday from her downtown Boston hotel.

DeCarli, 61, was about a block and a half from the blasts, which killed at least three people and injured more than 130.

"It was almost like disbelief. A group of us were walking away from the finish line and we turn around and went, like, 'What was that?' " she said. "All the cops are running, making people tell us to move and trying to clear the area."

DeCarli was one of at least 14 Sonoma County residents who participated in the famed marathon on Monday.

Ultra-runner Arthur Webb of Santa Rosa never got to complete the race that was on his bucket list. Webb, 71, said he was five minutes from the finish line when he heard the explosions.

"I knew what it was when I heard it, probably from watching war movies," Webb said. "I kept running but only for a few feet until I hit a wall of people and smoke. They told us to get off the course. I never finished."

Back home, Christine Webb endured about four hours of anxiety watching the news on CNN before getting a call from her husband. The last word she had before the blasts was confirmation that her husband had reached mile 18.6 of the 26.2-mile race.

She was glad she declined to accompany her husband to Boston.

"I'm really glad I didn't go there," she said, speculating that she could have been standing near the finish line when the explosions occurred.

Santa Rosa sisters Michelle and Julie Nacouzi ran the marathon together, their first, and finished only minutes before the blasts. They were about 100 yards from where the bombs went off.

Both Michelle, 21, and Julie, 19, thought someone had fired off a cannon to celebrate a runner's finish. Then they realized the grim truth.

"I just wanted to get out of there," Julie Nacouzi said, fearful there might be more explosions.

The sisters and their mother, Stephanie, quickly boarded a bus for the Boston airport.

The Nacouzis watched the news coverage on TV while they waited to fly home. Michelle Nacouzi said many of her friends knew she was taking a day off from classes at UC Berkeley to run in the marathon, so her phone was ringing constantly.

Michelle Nacouzi said that what she witnessed at the finish line was bad, but the bombs sounded fairly small.

"It's scarier on TV," she said.

Back in Sonoma County, friends and relatives waited to hear word from runners in Boston as the chaos unfolded.

Longtime runner Mike Neering, 65, a retired Agilent Technologies manager and engineer, texted friends that he was shaken but unharmed by the attack.

"We know that he and his wife (Jean) are trying to get out of town now," said John Prouty, an Agilent manager in Santa Rosa.

Doug Wilson, 48, of Healdsburg and Greg Goebel, 47, of Petaluma had finished running 30 minutes before the explosions. They were in the hotel bar of the Four Seasons, celebrating their times (Wilson, 3:15, and Goebel, 3:03) when Goebel received a text message from Healdsburg friend Rod Matteri back in California.

"Are you OK?" Matteri asked.

"I didn't know what he meant," said Goebel, a general contractor.

The bartender at the Four Seasons switched the bar television to CNN, where the two men sat watching the news. The Four Seasons is two blocks from the finish line.

"It was horrifying," Goebel said.

Petaluma marathoner Tom Preute was on an airplane bound for home Monday afternoon, his wife said.

"I'm feeling very grateful," Yvette Preute said after receiving a text message and then a phone call from her husband.

Tom Preute's immediate instinct was to head for Logan Airport, but it wasn't easy, she said. Unable to catch a cab in a chaotic aftermath of the explosions, Preute -- having just run 26.2 miles -- had to walk several miles to a bus station, his wife said.

DeCarli, a contractor for Agilent, also struggled to exit the area and return to her hotel, as officials blocked off streets and diverted the crowds.

"Thousands of people trying to get through," she said.

Most of the people who were killed or injured were spectators at the finish line, she noted. Had she run a little slower, DeCarli said she "probably would've been right in it."

Last year she finished in 4:08, and the year before that 4:00. Intent on finishing in less than four hours, DeCarli said she finished in 3:52, crossed the line and started walking away. About 10 minutes later, the bombs went off.

"I was lucky I ran fast," she said. "I timed it right."

Staff writers Bob Padecky and Chris Smith contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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