Storms Can’t Stop Love – A Boston Marathon Proposal
Taking Back the Finish Line – The 2014 Boston Marathon
My first Boston Marathon experience was bittersweet, and my then boyfriend, now husband knew it. I qualified for Boston at Philadelphia in 2012. Since it was a November race, my qualification counted toward the 2014 Boston Marathon. At the time, I was dismayed at having to wait over a year for my Boston dreams to come true. After watching the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon unfold – reading posts and reports online from the safety of my office – I was grateful for how everything played out. I was also slightly nervous about heading to the site of the 2013 Boston bombings only a year later. For many reasons, I needed to be on that marathon course in 2014 though.
After training through months of a typical treacherous Upstate New York winter, I was thrilled by the sun and 65-degree weather that greeted all of us as we stood on the start line on April 21, 2014. The marathon I was lining up to run would prove to be 26.2 miles of literal and emotional sunshine amidst a year of personal storms.
During the marathon, I played leapfrog with a woman named Toni, a runner from Texas. At Mile 25, as I approached that legendary Citgo sign, a true beacon of hope on Beacon Street, Toni passed me again. I glued myself to her shoulder after she introduced herself, and she explained that in 2013, her day had ended at the bridge we were about to run under. The first bomb exploded, runners scattered, and she never crossed that finish line. At approximately 2:41 pm, Toni and I crossed the blue and yellow finish line of the 2014 Boston Marathon together. Unable to swallow hold them back any longer, we both burst into tears. The Boston dream that had been stolen from Toni in 2013 had finally been restored!
That day, I witnessed first hand Boston’s power to heal the hearts of those that had waited a whole year to take back the finish line, and I was humbled to be part of it. I ran Boston during a tumultuous time in my own life, inspired to rise above any hardship life throws at us by marathon runners like Toni, who was courageous enough to return to the course one year after the bombing. For me, it was a special day, but hard as I still had to wake up the next morning and fight some very painful battles.
I survived my 2014 hardships though, much like my 2013 sole sisters and brothers survived because I too am Boston Strong. Little did I know that I would return to Boston four years later to embrace restoration of my own dreams!
Saying YES – The 2018 Boston Marathon
I met Patrick the day before he ran his first 100-mile trail race, the HURT 100 on Oahu. After the race, I returned to the Boston area where I was living at the time, but there was no going back from that weekend as far as my heart was concerned! As endurance athletes, Patrick and I knew how to endure distance, but a long-distance relationship that spanned 5033 miles and a five-hour time difference was too hard to take. We lasted 82 days before we decided that I would meet him in Boston for the marathon, and then fly back to Hawaii with him… for good!
Patrick had been planning that proposal since he bought his plane ticket to Boston, sharing his plans with our mutual friend and his marathon training partner Bree Brown and her then fiancé, now husband, Mikey.
“I wanted to propose at the finish line, but I’d never run a race with that many participants before,” he told me later, as we reminisced about the day. “I couldn’t let you know what I was up to, so I had Bree talk to you about what the finish line was like.” This was fitting, as Bree had worked her matchmaking magic and was largely behind those first few conversations Patrick and I ever had!
When Bree brought up the Boston Marathon finish line, I informed her that it was not only chaotic, but that security there was heightened significantly after 2013, making it inaccessible to anyone but marathon runners, volunteers, and race officials. The whole conversation made me suspect that Patrick actually had a ring. But with a finish line proposal out of the question, I never expected to see that ring in Boston. Thanks to Bree, everyone else did!
“That morning, I told everyone in our starting corral that this guy was going to propose to his girlfriend in Natick!”
Marathon morning was overcast and downright cold, but Patrick and I were so overjoyed at being reunited that we didn’t mind! After photos and hugs in the hotel lobby, Bree and Patrick boarded their shuttle to the race start. Mikey and I left shortly after that to find a good (hopefully dry) spot in Natick, MA to cheer from. It was April 16, 2018, and I was returning to the streets of Boston, this time as a spectator.
Mikey and I hunkered down in a laundromat with other diehard Boston Marathon fans, watching the windows steam over every time another family member with a “Go Dad!” or “My Daughter is Boston Strong” sign opened the door. About 25 minutes before the time we estimated to see Bree and Patrick, Mikey and I ventured out into a rain shower.
What began as a drizzle was now a full-on storm, pelting everyone in its path with freezing rain as the cold winds blew sideways. Despite the storm and the pack of runners around him, I managed to see Patrick coming from about a half mile away. I’d recognize that smooth stride and bright green hat with A-L-O-H-A printed on it anywhere! I called his name, cheering and jumping around in the rain. If he was in the zone, he might not even acknowledge me, and I was fine with that. I just wanted Patrick to know I was there for him, and I was his biggest fan!
He did more than simply acknowledge my raucous cheering. “I carried that pearl ring on my pinky finger for 10 miles!” Patrick later informed me, smiling like a kid who’s smuggled candy into a church. Around Mile 10 of the Boston Marathon, he broke free of the crowd he was running with and began heading toward the sidelines where I was waiting with the other spectators.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, concerned that my Hawaii guy was suffering, unaccustomed to this damp cold. He stood there in the rain, removing his first and second layer of gloves.
“What do you need?!” I questioned, ready to dig through the clear plastic bag I was carrying and find a dry shirt, a bandaid, water, or whatever would get Patrick back on the course. He didn’t seem to be hurt, or to be in any hurry to rejoin his fellow runners in the rain. And I was confused!
“I know last time you were here, you didn’t have the experience you wanted,” Patrick said, trying to catch his breath from running a 6:57 pace. “So I want to make sure you have a Boston Marathon memory that you deserve!” Like lightning, it struck me. Patrick Stover was proposing to me in the middle of his Boston Marathon, a day he’d dreamed of for so long, and worked so hard for! There on West Central St. in Natick, Patrick got down on one knee, in a rather deep puddle, and asked me to marry him.
There would be no saving my crying for the finish line on this Marathon Monday. I said “Yes!” in between teardrops and raindrops, and Patrick put a stunning pearl ring on my finger. The other runners were clapping and shouting “Hell Yeah!” and “Congrats!” to us as they ran by. The spectators who had been cheering for the runners moments before were now cheering for us as we kissed in the pouring rain!
After about 3 minutes, Patrick had to put his soggy gloves back on and head out onto the course, leaving me in blissful shock on the side of the road.
Fortunately, Patrick didn’t save that proposal for the end of the Boston marathon, because as I guessed, the crowds and the rain were no match for Mikey and I. We never did see Bree or Patrick cross the finish line! After about an hour, I finally found my boyfriend – correction fiancé – huddled up in a bus, shivering in his wet clothes. I kissed him, helped him change into the dry clothes I had for him, kissed him again, admired my ring, and got off the bus with him before we got kicked off for public displays of affection.
Patrick’s official finish time was 3:02:27. If he hadn’t stopped mid-marathon to propose, his time would certainly have been under 3 hours. He could have made the Boston Marathon all about having his fastest race ever, and no one would have blamed him, including me. He chose to sacrifice his sub-three-hour finish and transform the Boston Marathon into a beautiful moment for me instead.
When I woke up the next morning, there were no battles to fight. There was only a heart full of love, and one incredible memory to treasure. It was the beginning of a journey that has involved many miles run, finish lines crossed, and adventures shared!
If a man gives up a sub-three-hour marathon for you, and at Boston to boot, you know you’ve found the one. I married Patrick 41 days later, surrounded by our runner friends, in a ceremony that involved tying the laces of our running shoes together to symbolize tying the knot!
Patrick may be the one who walked away with a Boston Finisher’s medal, but I walked away with an engagement ring, and a memory of the Boston Marathon that reminds me daily that hearts can heal, dreams can be restored, and love can find you in the middle of a storm.