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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 21 2014

Area runners head back to Boston one year after marathon bombings

BOSTON – For Kevin Carollo, running the 118th Boston Marathon today – his first – will have an extra emotional kick.

The 45-year-old Fargo man says he was deeply affected as he watched coverage of the twin bombings last April that ripped into runners and spectators at the marathon’s finish line.

“I cried a lot in front of the television,” said the Minnesota State University Moorhead English teacher.

“I always wanted to (run the Boston Marathon), ever since I was a kid. But especially in light of last year’s event.

“I found watching (news coverage) on television provoked quite an emotional reaction to it. And it seemed to spur me on further,” Carollo said. “The emotional draw is even more acute. It seems even more important to be here.”

On Friday, Carollo was picking up his race packet at the downtown convention center.

There will be about 36,000 runners this year, about 9,000 more than last year’s race.

“The excitement here is palpable, and it’s just beginning to get going. There are thousands of people here. The adrenaline is starting to build up,” he said. “Everyone is happy. Everyone is in a good mood.”

Jon Owen, 58, of Luverne, N.D., will run his seventh Boston Marathon this year and his 35th marathon since 2004.

Owen said he finished last year’s race 50 minutes before the first of the bombs went off.

He and his wife and sister-in-law had entered the lobby of their hotel room when they saw people gathered around televisions watching the breaking news coverage.

Owen said there was no doubt in his mind that he would return for this year’s marathon.

“I think everybody kind of marks that time” of the bombings, he said. “What were you doing when that happened?”

He said security is tighter this year. Anything left at the starting line will be discarded.

Marathon officials have prohibited a number of items from race venues, including backpacks, suitcases, large packages, coolers, glass containers and containers that hold more than 1 liter of liquid, fireworks, strollers, costumes that cover the face, large blankets, props such as sporting equipment, water carriers like Camelbaks and weight vests.

Owen said it’s important to “just try to honor the sacrifices that have been made and not forget, for sure,” Owen said.

‘A decisive end’

About 2:50 p.m. on April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded about 12 seconds apart near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street.

The blasts killed three people and injured at least 264. The FBI determined the bombs were made using pressure cookers filled with BBs and nails, and hidden in backpacks.

Late on April 18, 2013, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer was killed, allegedly by one of the bombing suspects.

The two suspected bombers, brothers Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, then hijacked a car in Cambridge, Mass., in the early morning hours of April 19. As police chased them, the suspects threw explosives out of the car windows and exchanged gunshots with officers.

One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was captured but died after he was run over by a vehicle driven by his brother, Dzhokhar, 19. Both of the Chechen immigrants were from Cambridge.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was later captured after hiding in a boat in a yard in Watertown, Mass.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Tsarnaev. His trial date is set for early November.

John Simonson of Fargo has run the Boston Marathon twice but wasn’t able to run a qualifying marathon time in the past year.

“I wish I was going back this year,” the 47-year-old said Friday.

He ran in the heat in 2012. And in 2013, there were the bombings.

He was retrieving his clothes about 600 yards away when the bombs went off.

“The first time they tried to kill me with heat, and the second time they tried to kill me with bombs. And I still want to go back,” Simonson joked.

But talking about the days after the bombings, he grew serious.

“It was gripping. I was locked onto the manhunt. I really wanted to see the perpetrators caught. And I wanted to see them pay. Dearly. I didn’t want anybody escaping,” Simonson said. “I wanted a decisive end. And I think there was.”

He said he doesn’t want to be scared away.

“It’s something I can do. It’s something I want to do. And I’m not going to back down to do something I want to do because there happens to be crazy people in the world,” Simonson said. “It’s a great event. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in sports. No … the coolest thing.”

He said he’ll spend some time today reflecting. And he’ll wear his finisher’s jacket in solidarity.

“I can’t believe it’s already been a year. I guess it’s gone pretty quickly. When I was watching some of the coverage on it, it really is an interesting story. And I’m glad that I survived it,” Simonson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583