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Area runner recalls Boston marathon bombing one year later

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When two bombs exploded near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Brainerd resident Melissa Goble was trying to board a subway train less than two blocks away. Goble had just finished running the marathon 20 minutes earlier — a pace 11 minutes faster than she intended.

“It was crazy,” Goble recalled. “We had no idea what was happening.”

Melissa’s husband, Andy, said they were told they needed to leave the subway station, but were unaware of what was happening above ground. “I had very little experience with subways,” Andy Goble said. “With the mass amount of people I just thought maybe the subway was too full and we wouldn’t be able to get on one.”

When the Gobles emerged from the subway they knew something was very wrong. “When we hit street level is when you could see the terror in people’s faces and the mass confusion of what was happening,” Andy Goble recalled. “I heard a lot of people exclaiming that there was a loud boom.”

“Your first instinct is, ‘what can we do to help,’” said Melissa Goble, a labor and delivery nurse at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby. Having just completed a 26.2 mile run, she said she was in no shape to offer help to others.

Knowing they needed to get somewhere safe, the pair returned to their hotel on foot and they waited.

Melissa and Andy Goble would later learn that two bombs were detonated near the finish line of the marathon abruptly ending the race. The blast took the lives of three onlookers and injured 264 others ­— 14 of whom required amputations.

As details of the explosion’s location emerged, Melissa and Andy Goble learned that prior to her finishing the race, he had been standing within feet of the device.

“I had spent five hours within feet of the first explosion,” Andy Goble recalled.

The pair said as the sobering time line settled in they started thinking about how it could have gone. What if Melissa had finished later? What if they had brought their kids?

“It is one of the most overwhelming feelings I have ever felt,” Andy Goble said. “I felt blessed to be alive, I was angry that somebody would do such a thing, I was saddened by all of the injuries and deaths, I was scared, I was in shock, and I wanted to go home.”

“I’m so thankful we got through it,” Melissa Goble said. “It could have been a lot different.”

The pair stayed in Boston until the following night, but instead of seeing the city they remained hunkered down in their hotel room watching the manhunt on the TV.

“I took pictures — we were mostly scared to go out,” she said. “All we really wanted was to get home to our family.”

The Gobles did return to the site of the race the next day, a place that is usually busy with tourists and post-race day festivities. “It was like a ghost town,” Melissa Goble said.

A year later, Melissa Goble said she’s still reminded that what was supposed to be a check on her bucket list — running the Boston Marathon — ended up being a far more impacting event. “It’s one of those things you hold on to forever,” she said. “You never think you’ll be part of something so important in history.”

Melissa Goble said still sees news reports every once in a while as periodic updates surface about the impending trial of Dhhokar Tsarnev, the 20-year-old surviving suspect charged with the bombing.

“It kind of brings you back,” Melissa Goble said — though she admits to not following the story very closely saying she is more drawn to the stories of hope that have emerged from those who survived the attack.

“You don’t want to ignore it — I just try to bring out the positive,” she said. “It’s amazing how people stepped in and helped. A lot of people would run from something like that, but I’m grateful for those who do step in to help.”

Andy Goble said he has no regrets about being in Boston that day. “This was a bucket list item for Melissa, and I am so happy and proud of her for accomplishing her goals,” he said. “We will go back someday, God willing, and have a better ending to the trip.”

Melissa does not plan to return to Boston for this year’s marathon. She missed her qualifying time in the Sioux Falls Marathon by a minute. “This would definitely be the year to go,” she said. “Someday I’ll go back.”

Deerwood resident Colleen McCormick will run in the Boston Marathon this year, which is scheduled to be held on the city’s Patriot’s Day, April 21.

After four previous attempts, McCormick, 52, said she finally qualified with a 3:41 finish. “It’s been a long time coming,” McCormick said. She ran her first marathon in 1985.

McCormick said her excitement and anticipation far outweigh her worries about running in Boston a year after the race was bombed.

“That’s not really even on my radar,” she said, adding that she receives constant email correspondence from the race host, the Boston Athletic Association, explaining protocol and procedures to expect on race day. “They’re as tuned in as they can possibly be.”

Having watched the events unfold last year in Boston, McCormick said she expects the day to be very emotional.

“It was something I’ve been so engaged in — like the rest of the country,” she said. “I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. I just cannot wait.”

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.