Joy Amid The Sorrow At Boston

Jose Elizondo didn't run the race of his life in Boston, but certainly it's a race he and his fiance, Marie Abegg, will never forget. Photo: Jose Elizondo

Jose Elizondo will never forget his Boston Marathon experience.

Jose Elizondo planned meticulously for this year’s Boston Marathon, as you’d expect from a sub-3-hour marathoner.

But most of his plans had little to do with running.

All along, the 26-year-old from Hobart, Ind., had planned to use the race as an opportunity to propose to his girlfriend, Marie Abegg. His plan was to stop at the 26-mile mark of the race and pop the question about a block before the finish line.

“I wanted to let her know that the Boston Marathon was important to me, but not as important as she is,” Elizondo says. “But when I got to that part of the race, I couldn’t find her.”

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The crowds along Boylston Street were too big, and after looking around for Abegg, Elizondo decided to just finish the race. “I thought, OK, we go to Plan B.”

He crossed the finish line in 2:56:53, not a PR but close to it, and awfully good for a tough marathon course.

“As far as the race went, I was really happy with it,” Elizondo says. “I took things easy the first half and was able to basically stay on pace the rest of the way. I just didn’t think it would hurt so much. The second half really took a lot out of me.”

The upcoming proposal helped distract him, as well as a diamond ring that he’d discretely slipped on his pinky finger at the start of the race. “I thought about it the entire way — I was so worried about losing it,” he says. “In some ways it helped me not think about the marathon. I just kept clenching my fist to feel that it was there.”

Having missed Abegg as Mile 26, Elizondo finally found her after crossing the finish line in the runner-reunite area. There, he got down on one knee and pulled out the ring.

“It was 100 percent a surprise,” Abegg says. “I had no idea at all. Even when he went down on his knee, I thought he was hurt.”

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The happy couple waited in the area to watch a friend, who finished around the 4-hour mark of the race. Soon after, they heard the first bomb blast a block away.

“With the first one, everyone just stopped,” Abegg says. “We didn’t know what was going on. Then with the second blast, we knew something was wrong.”

They walked away from the finish area but couldn’t figure out a good way to get to a friend’s apartment in Watertown where they were staying. “We must have walked for three hours,” Abegg says. “Jose just ran a marathon and we’re walking around for three hours, trying to figure out how to get someplace safe.”

Eventually, friends were able to pick them up in a car and they made it back safely. Having just informed the world about their engagement, they were also receiving frantic queries about their safety.

“He had posted a picture of the proposal and ‘She said yes’ on Facebook,” Abegg says. “So he must have gotten 150 texts, and they were all pretty much the same, ‘Are you OK?’ and ‘Congratulations.’”

“It made me mad,” Elizondo says. “How could someone do this at the Boston Marathon?”

Elizondo and Abegg plan on marrying in the fall of 2014. And they plan to be at plenty of marathons. “I’d like to do all the big ones,” Elizondo says. “New York, London, Berlin, I just want to do as many as I can. (The bombing) won’t stop anyone.”

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