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Finish-line marriage proposal enlivens Thunder Road race

Bobby Conrad had a ring and a plan.

Conrad, the girls’ varsity basketball coach at Charlotte Catholic, is an avid runner. So is his girlfriend Lindsey McCormick, who also works at the school as an assistant minister. The two had dated for nearly three years, and they were both running the half-marathon in Charlotte at the Thunder Road Marathon on Saturday morning.

Several weeks before, Conrad had decided to propose at the race’s finish line. He managed to keep it a secret until the past week, when it bubbled over. He told not only all of his family and all of Lindsey’s immediate family but also a few of his religion students at school.

Amazingly, everyone kept quiet. Lindsey was none the wiser as she ran the 13.1-mile course, along with a half-dozen other family members who all wore “Team Ann” T-shirts in honor of Bobby Conrad’s mother, Ann, a breast cancer survivor. Ann Conrad was at the finish line, too.

Bobby Conrad finished his 13.1 miles in one hour and 29 minutes. Then he got the diamond ring from a family member who had been holding it, threw on a long-sleeved T-shirt and waited.

Lindsey came running in 35 minutes later, looking remarkably fresh.

Race organizers had also been let in on the surprise, and so they called for Lindsey McCormick to come back to the finish line because she was needed for something. Lindsey didn’t rush to get over there.

“I’m like, ‘Why do I have to go to the finish line?’” she recounted later. “So I go get my blanket and my medal first, and then I come over there. And then Bobby showed up.”

Conrad grabbed a microphone. As surprised fans watched and sweaty runners kept on finishing the race to his left, he started talking.

“Lindsey, you’ve brought more joy to my life than anybody I’ve ever met,” Conrad said, dropping to one knee and holding out the ring. “I can’t think of anybody I would more want to spend the rest of my life with. Would you marry me?”

Lindsey shrieked “Yes! Yes!” and hugged him. He picked her up and they kissed. The spectators – including about 15 members from both families, all of whom had turned into amateur videographers – put down their smartphones for a second and burst into applause.

“Surprise! Surprise!” another race organizer said over the loudspeakers. “It’s our first-ever proposal at the Thunder Road Marathon!”

“I had no idea this was coming,” Lindsey said later.

Bobby Conrad is the eldest son of U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad, who is an acquaintance of mine and had clued me in that this was going to happen. The younger Conrad is 31; McCormick is 26.

“She is very energetic and passionate,” Bobby Conrad said of his future wife, “and one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. I live on a straight line – not too high, not too low. She’s kind of the opposite of that.”

The two plan to get married in the summer of 2014. They aren’t sure where or when, but they do agree on one thing.

It won’t be at a road race.

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