At the end of a half marathon, most runners are looking for water, food and maybe a little first aid. Tracy Yarbrough was stunned by what was waiting for her.
Yarbrough and her boyfriend Shane Davis had a goal of running in all 50 states. As part of that goal, she and Davis made the trip from Clarksville, Tenn., to run in the Geist Half Marathon on May 17. As it turned out, Davis had more than a good run in mind.
He enlisted the help of Aprill Shelburne, volunteer race coordinator, who, in return for a check to cover the costs, set him up with his essential end-of-race supplies: flowers, champagne, glasses and balloons.
Usually Yarbrough, 44, and Davis, 47, run together. She reintroduced him to running when they started dating at the beginning of 2013.
The weekend race marked the sixth state they have run in together since setting out on their quest. Her birthday fell on the following Monday, making the weekend a little extra special.
Before the half marathon, Indiana held no special meaning for the couple, who come from the town made famous by the Monkees in the 1960s.
“It was a way to celebrate her birthday and run a half marathon,” he said. “She didn’t realize there was more to the story than that.”
Davis was confident that he would finish the race before his running partner, although he has not always been the faster of the pair. “When we first started running, she was much faster than me,” he said.
He suggested that if one of them felt strong, it would be OK to go ahead.
“That was my goal. I wanted to finish before her so that I could be waiting for her,” he said. “I did a good job of keeping it a surprise.”
And what a surprise it was. Yarbrough was a little out of breath at the finish line, which was at the top of a hill.
“The next thing you know, I’m on one knee. People are crowding around,” Davis said. Then an announcement came over the public address system: “Tracy, Shane has a question for you.”
Yarbrough accepted the marriage proposal, giving the enthusiastic crowd of strangers an unexpected ending to the race.
The couple will surely remember the sixth state they ran in together, and they plan to continue running and visiting all the states.
Even their honeymoon will entail a little fancy footwork. Since Hawaii will be one of the more difficult states to get to, they plan to honeymoon there. They probably will not race, but just might take a run on the beach, Davis said.
Proposing at the end of a run held a special meaning for the athletes.
“We really see running as symbolic or an allegory for life,” Davis said. “The hills, the peaks, the valleys and the hard times—you just sort of have to push through.
“I want to run the marathon of life with her,” he said.