Socorro runners in Boston

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Robert Gonzales and Rick Aster were the only Socorroans who ran in the Boston Marathon Monday, and both were well away from the course when two massive explosions marred the annual Patriot’s Day sporting event.

Socorro Mens’ Golf Association president Robert Gonzales said in a phone interview he and New Mexico Tech geoscience professor Rick Aster had completed the race over an hour before the first bomb detonated near the finish line.

Gonzales said race volunteers walk the runners away from the finish line to minimize congestion.

“They do a really good job,” he said. “You just continue to walk once you finish — until you are pretty well out of the way of the others.”

By the time the first explosion occurred, Gonzales said he and a fellow New Mexico runner were three to four miles away from the finish line.

“We were in front of the Back Bay connection (to the subway system) when we heard this boom,” he said. “At first, I thought it was a cannon. I stopped and thought, ‘This is interesting.’ After a few seconds, I saw smoke and I realized, ‘This isn’t good,’ so we got on the T (the Boston subway). By the time I got off the T, my phone was going left and right. People were asking, ‘Are you OK?’”

It wasn’t until he returned to his hotel room that he realized the magnitude of the crisis and how close he had come to being severely injured.

“I said to myself, ‘Wow, an hour and 10 minutes ago I had run on the left hand side of the street,’” he said.

The first bomb had gone off on that side of the street. Gonzales had run the race before on the left side near the finish line, so he considered it his lucky side.

Gonzales wasn’t worried about Aster.

“I knew Rick was out there in front of me,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who was injured. It was just the two of us (from Socorro).”

Gonzales refuses to let terrorists diminish his marathon experience.

“It’s not going to take away from my experience of the race,” he said. “I loved the race. I loved the volunteers — they did an excellent job. I will come back and do it again. I want to support the city of Boston and the race.”

Rick Aster, a three-time Boston marathoner, left Boston for a professional meeting in Salt Lake City Monday and responded by email:

“I was well clear of the finish line when the explosions occurred, having crossed the finish line just about an hour before. I’d say that this is an exceptionally tragic event by someone who wanted — on a patriotic holiday — to disrupt one of the world’s greatest and most historic sporting events that is a hallmark event for Massachusetts, where I grew up.”

Aster’s wife, Parkview School nurse Jan Tarr, said the timing of the bomb blasts spared the elite runners.

“These explosions happened when the slower and older runners, the charity runners and the spectators waiting for family were at the finish line area,” she said. “I feel bad for everybody. The bombers targeted civilians, not a military institution. Just civilians running.”

Gonzales, 49, averaged 7 minutes 21 seconds per mile, finishing the 26-mile course in 3 hours, 12 minutes, and 27 seconds. He placed 4,215 overall and was 450 out of 1,941 men running in the 45-49 age division.

Aster, 53, averaged 7 minutes 15 seconds per mile, finishing the course in 3 hours, 9 minutes, and 53 seconds. He placed 3,712 overall and 169 out of the 1,581 men in the 50-54 age group.

According to the RunTri website, about 23,336 started the race Monday. Three-quarters finished before the race was stopped. The Boston Athletic Association reported 57 of the 64 New Mexico runners who started the race crossed the finish line.