The Proposal - Rock 'n' Roll USA(DC) Marathon Race Report Pt. 2

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's not like had 14 miles to think about what I was going to say or anything.  In fact, I really had months to think about exactly what I was going to say...but I'll get to that later.  Before I get into all of the details about what happened at mile 14 of the Rock 'n' Roll USA marathon last weekend,  I want to provide some background on how I got there...besides the obvious running the first thirteen miles of the race!

As I mentioned in part 1, Michelle and I had originally planned to spend spring break in the Outer Banks...which would have made for a more "private" event, but after some consideration we decided against the 'Tour de Virginia' for numerous reasons.  So it was back to the drawing board.

Part of me had always thought it would be during a run...more specifically a marathon and after reading and watching numerous "race" proposals, I KNEW that was what I wanted to do.  One day, I will convince Michelle to run a full marathon but with our busy schedules and both of us being in school I might have been waiting....well a LONG time!  Being the Rock 'n' Roll marathon, I had lots of different idea of how to pop the big question, some of the contenders are below:

  1. Coordinate with a band along the route to play the song - Ho Hey by The Lumineers.  Logistically timing was the issue here.  Although I had a pretty good idea of what I would run pace wise it would have been difficult for the band to pick me out of the crowd of runners, all 30,000 of us, and coordinate when to start playing the song.  
  2. Have a shirt screen printed with "Will You Marry Me?" on it.  I actually wore the shirt during the race I planned to have screen printed (a plain white Brook Podium tee) but again figuring out when to put the shirt on and really I wanted to be the one asking, not the writing on the shirt.  I eventually decided against this one and it's a good thing I did; the weather didn't play nice and could have made things go awry.
  3. Have someone hold a sign or have a banner made.  Again, I wanted to be the one asking and hence why I finally opted for how I did it...I'll get to it.
With Michelle's parents blessing, I began planning.  At the outset of the ring process, I didn't really have a specific date or timeframe but once I got the ball rolling and realized that it could be ready by the time I was supposed to run Rock 'n' Roll,  I began planning as if it would and hoped for the best.  As a side note, this is for all of the guys out there: when considering a timeline...plan for 6-8 weeks to get the ring.  I knew I wanted pictures of the event and as I specifically told the photographer, "getting her reaction is most important."  Having a friend who's profession is photography...well...that helps!  I called Jonathan in early February to see if he was available that weekend, I had my fingers crossed because it wasn't really "wedding season" yet, to my relief he was and we put it on the calendar!

Next was scouting a location.  Ideally the course would have finished near the Washington Monument or the reflecting pool providing a picturesque backdrop for the photos but after looking at the course for possible locations, most of the notable monuments came in the first half of the race, specifically in the first 3 miles!  However, I saw around mile 9 that the course crossed the National Mall which if the photos were taken in the right direction the Washington Monument would be in the background.  Perfect!  Wrong!  Not being able to scout the location in person I turned to technology to see the location I had picked out.  Thank goodness for Google Street View!  Growing up in the northern Virginia area and frequenting D.C., I had no idea that there were tunnels under the mall?!?  This is what the photos would have looked like:


Picturesque huh?  After looking at the course map again and realizing that most trees do not have leaves in mid-March, I decided that there was one more great opportunity right before mile 14 on Constitution Avenue near Upper Senate Park, directly across from the Capitol.


This was a great location for lots of reasons.  It wasn't too early into the race or too late...which could have been catastrophic because I was hurting pretty bad late in the race.  The fact that it was a half mile or so before two of the bands, the Rock 'n' Roll series races have bands every two miles or so along the course, meant there wouldn't be huge crowds because they would probably be near the music.  Finally, the location was on a downhill which meant I had a good perspective for scanning the crowds to easily find Michelle and my family.

The location turned out to be beautiful.  Even better was that the rain decided to hold off.  Initially the predictions were rain all day and temperatures in the mid-40s, basically downright miserable weather.  It could not have been better!

For those familiar with race photography, you know how expensive purchasing prints and photos from the "official" race photo company can be...the perfect excuse to have a friend, who's a photographer, come to watch you run and "take photos" of you along the course.  I sent him the Google Street View link so that he could scope out the area and would know where to meet my parents.  Also of note is that  while my dad knew what was about to happen, my mom had NO idea.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTOS)
As you can see in the photo above there aren't a ton of people at this location.  Michelle and my parents waiting around for me to come...probably thinking "why isn't he faster?"

One of my favorite photos.  My dad is trying his best not to let the secret out of the bag and you can see him smirking there because he know why Jonathan is really taking the photos!

At this point Michelle is trying to wave me down...you can just barely see me in the distance to the right of the guy in the green shirt.  You can probably see my neon socks which made for awesome photos!

When I came over the top of the hill I pretty easily spotted Jonathan on the left side of the road (Thanks for wearing Hokie colors!) and positioned myself to run on the left side of the road until I arrived where they were standing.  The whole thing is somewhat of a blur...I mean I did just run 14 miles at roughly 8:30 minute miles...but the first thing I said was "Hey, I'm cramping pretty bad I need my other shoes" which I had planned because I knew this would distract Michelle while she looked through all of my stuff (note the MASSIVE red backpack she is wearing!) while I took off my hydration vest and removed the ring.

Once I had the ring out out my hydration pack, it was in the case and in a plastic bag, I grabbed Michelle's hand and got down on one knee.  You can see she is still holding the bag that she pulled my shoes out of and has somewhat of a confused look on her face.

Right before asking.  Note: at some point she just decided it was appropriate to drop the bag in her hand... you can see the massive red backpack with all of my stuff.  Also...if you zoom in you'll see a huge group of people between Michelle and I off in the distance (wearing khakis) who went CRAZY when the realized what was happening!  All of them were jumping up and down and clapping and yelling!

For the most part...I wasn't very winded or nervous.  I was wondering if I was going to be too out of breath to ask but I remember my voice being distinctly calm and clear.  

She said YES!

At some point during the exchange Michelle laughed and said "I shouldn't have been wearing gloves" which I think we all laughed about.

Funny story:  One day while Michelle was working out I snuck into her drawer and ran to the "bookstore" (I actually did go there too) but took her class ring to the jeweler to have it sized.  I felt so clever and proud for sneaking it in and out without her ever realizing or suspecting.  It fits perfectly!

The smile says it all!

Our first kiss as an engaged couple!

My mom got a little emotional...as she was completely unaware and just as surprised as Michelle!

My idol.  A phenomenal husband and father.
Thanks for making sure everyone "was in the right place" and ensuring the whole thing went smoothly.

My Best Friend.

Jonathan did a phenomenal job capturing the emotion of the moment.  A feeling that still hasn't really sunk in.

I am so glad, and fortunate, that my parents were able to be there for it.

So a slight confession.  I have a terrible time smiling for photographs.  There are few photos that capture a real genuine smile from me.  This is one of them.  My favorite of them all!

I love this one.  She kinda has that same look when someone in a movie is walking away from a car or building that is about to blow up and they're walking calmly...kind of like "BOOM...just got engaged!"

Everyone running by clapped and cheered and asked if she said yes (of course she did!).  At this point I really didn't want to finish the race but made a joke to lighten the situation "So...I'm supposed to go finish this marathon thing?" to which everyone laughed and I responded "but I seriously am cramping bad and need water, do we have water?"  I grabbed a few bottles (sorry Jonathan) and threw them in my hydration vest and took off running down the street.

Right down at the bottom of the hill was a water station where I grabbed a cup of Gatorade in an attempt to prevent cramping later on but I knew I was in serious trouble and once you get to that point you can't catch up.  The next few miles went rather quickly with only few a minor "hints" of a cramp but no full leg-locked rolling on the ground type cramps.  Those came at mile 19, 22, 23, 24, 25 and lots of increments in-between.  The back half was tough for me and all I could think about was how I could easily quit and hop on the metro to RFK.

I have never DNF (Did Not Finish for you no-runner folk) and was NOT about to start right after proposing.  On the bright side, pun intended, the sun did come out around mile 17 and it warmed up enough that I decided to ditch (read: put in the elastic straps on my hydration vest) the long sleeve shirt I was wearing which helped me gain composure for a few miles.  I have absolutely no idea why I cramped as badly as I did, I thought I was taking in enough hydration and followed my typical electrolyte intake.  Some days your legs have it and others they don't. The final six miles were a lot of run-walk-walk-jog-cramp-walk and repeat.

Eventually, I managed to make my way to the final bridge where you can see RFK just teasing you and decided I was not going to stop running until I crossed the finish line.  To which I stayed mostly true. The first five minutes after crossing the finish line are the worst.  All these people try to hand you stuff (bananas, bottles of water, gatorade, etc.) and put a medal around your neck (side note: there should be a minimum height requirement for people doing this, for no reason should I have to bend halfway-over for the person to put it on after running 26.2 miles!) and all you want to do is lay down.  Unfortunately they had run out of chocolate milk by the time I came through so instead I headed over the Michelob Ultra post-race party to replenish all of those carbs!

Michelle and I hanging out at the post-race party!

Of course I wish I had run faster and not cramped as severely as I did but I think the below tweet after the race says it all!


As a tradition, we went to Shake Shack after the run and enjoyed the best burgers known to man. Afterwards, we hopped on the metro and headed home.  The day wasn't really about the run for me but the details of the Garmin file are below.

Of note is that I forgot to stop my watch after the finish line. No.  The last .76 miles did not take me 16:36!



...and the finisher medal.

To say that it was my best marathon would be a lie but I can honestly say it is one of the best days of my life!  I really enjoy writing this blog and having the opportunity to share such a special day for Michelle and I with our friends and family!  If you feel inclined, leave us some love below, I always make an effort to read and respond to comments!

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