West Florence High School Spanish teacher Cindy Ramirez left the Myrtle Beach Marathon with a lot more than a participation medal and sense of accomplishment.
She left with a ring.
Shortly after Ramirez finished the half marathon, her boyfriend Joe Rieger dropped to a knee and proposed marriage.
“I was just in shock,” Ramirez said. “I don’t even think I said yes right away because I didn’t hear him ask the question. It was a complete surprise. He pulled it off. I’m so happy.”
Rieger popped the question as Ramirez was walking away from the finish line. “I thought, ‘It’s now or never,’ ” Rieger said. “So I went ahead and dropped down a knee and she immediately started crying and went into shock.
“. . . There were probably 100 to 150 people standing around clapping.”
The couple has been dating about five years and moved to Florence a year ago. Rieger, who is in law enforcement, also runs on occasion, though not as proficiently as his fiancée. “I thought, ‘There’s no way I can run in this one because if she finishes before me, that’s going to ruin everything.’ It took a few months planning but it all worked out,” Rieger said.
Ramirez appreciated Rieger planning the proposal during a road race.
“It’s my two loves. [Rieger] is first, but I love doing races,” Ramirez said. “It’s definitely the appropriate place.”
Proposals in the marathon were more commonplace during its first 18 years, when its February dates often fell on or near Valentine’s Day.