ROCHESTER HILLS — Leah Scharl of Clarkston took second place in the women's Brooksie Way Half Marathon, but the odds are that's probably not what she'll remember most about that day.
The 34-year-old runner crossed the finish line in 1:25:39, two minutes behind race winner Sarah Gryniewicz, and right into the arms of Leo Foley Jr. of Deerfield Township. Foley, who won the half marathon last year, got down on one knee and asked Scharl to marry him.
She said yes as the crowd lining the the finish area cheered.
"It was incredible," said Scharl, who had a suspicion something might happen because of some hints leading up to the race and even during it after Foley, who was riding a bike along with a friend to take photos, sped away at mile 10.
But she added it still was a surprise, convincing herself it all might be an "overactive imagination."
The two avid runners met in 2008 while both ran in the Great Lakes Relay and she once told him how great it would be to receive a marriage proposal at the end of a race.
Foley said the Brooksie that year was one of the first they ran together and once he decided to propose, he made sure her parents would be there, hoping she would win after he won last year.
"I thought it would be kind of cool," he said, adding he was nervous.
The moment was a great surprise to his parents who also were running in the race, too, on Sunday. Leo Foley Sr. first learned the news when the two reached him during a cool down run at mile 12 and Scharl showed him the ring.
"I stopped and we hugged," the elder Foley said.
"If anything," he added with a laugh, "it probably cost me a couple of minutes, but it was worth it."
The younger Foley, 30, recently finished law school and currently works for his father, who has a law practice in South Lyon. The eldest of six children, Foley attended Hartland schools for a few years before switching to the Catholic school system, graduating from Flint Powers in 2000. (His parents live in Deerfield Township and attend in Fenton).
The couple could get married as soon as May, likely after Scharl, who is a massage therapist in Clinton Township, runs the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati that month. The two are headed to Chicago this weekend where Leo Foley will compete in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday where she will cheer him on and root from some friends to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials.
In the meantime, both are enjoying their moment in the spotlight. A more than 100 times and The Flint Journal also already detailed the proposal.
Scharl, who writes her own running blog, also already has shared her story there with some extra details and plenty of pictures including this caption under a photo of the two embracing:
"YES!! Although in retrospect I'm a little sad I didn't accept with, 'Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.'
"Leo: Didn't say anything for at least a 5 count. Had me a little worried.
"(Her reponse:) 13.1 miles, Leo. 13.1."