Some wondered aloud whether the strain of 26.2 miles had left Gabriel Zambrano delirious.
Was this man really running his first marathon and then on to Waterloo in one day?
But, no, he was of sound mind and body … and in very much in love.
That the 24-year-old Zambrano finished third in his first completed 26.2-mile race on Sunday morning was cause for joy, but he was just getting started.
After crossing the finish line at the Cowtown Marathon, he got on bended knee and proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Alyssa Rodriguez.
She said “absolutely yes.”
“I actually made plans last year when I placed fourth in the half, seeing her excitement, and she saw how happy I was,” said Zambrano, who carried the ring in a pocket during the run. “I saw the look on her face and I said, ‘I want to marry this girl.’”
Zambrano was more than a little impressive on Sunday, running with eventual marathon champion Andrew Cook and runner-up Bernard Too for about 22 miles.
He had actually said last year as part of his big plans this year that he was going to win the marathon. “I was hoping to win it, but a marathon is no joke.”
Neither is marriage.
“A lot of people say in a marathon you have to dig deep when you hit that wall. I hit that wall, and me digging deep was feeling the ring in my pocket.”
Speaking of running and marriage
Women’s marathon winner McKale Montgomery of Stillwater, Okla., recalled the time not too long ago when she was engaged and doing post-doctorate work in Arizona.
She and her now-husband wanted to marry on a beach, but, the couple’s financial resources being what they were at the time, the cost was prohibitive.
So, she took a drive out to San Diego for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon for a shot at the $1,000 top prize.
Montgomery, who ran at TCU as McKale Davis, is now a professor of nutrition at Oklahoma State but only after successfully throwing $1,000 at her wedding on the sand.
With real life and a real job now an obstacle, Montgomery calls herself more of a “weekend warrior,” but the 33-year- old banked another $1,200 in winning her fifth marathon, this one in 2:55:51, and first with her new last name.
She finished about eight minutes ahead of Amy Natalini, 35, a member of the Air Force who traveled from Shreveport for her first marathon in Fort Worth and 36 th overall.
Natalini is no slouch. In October, she competed in her third Marine Corps Marathon as part of the Armed Forces Championship in Washington, D.C.
“It was tight for the first 101/2 miles,” said Montgomery, who is still eying a U.S. Olympic-qualifying time. “Then we made it up a hill at the same time and she sounded a little more out of breath than me, so I took the opportunity. I just got lucky.
“It was a big downhill and I felt decent … I live in a really hilly neighborhood back home. I knew I had an edge on the downhill. I thought ‘I better get her now.’”
Ultra winner ‘in trouble’
Elite runner Jenna Mutz -- on orders from her coach, former Olympian Michael Aish -- was supposed to take it easy on Sunday, what with a 50-mile race approaching in March in Ottawa, Kan.
Instead, the 37-year- old Fort Worth native, raised in Mexia and educated at Baylor, zipped around The Cowtown ultra course at a 7:25 pace in winning with a time of 3:51:56.
She was the only elite runner in the ultra field. “He’s going to be a little upset when he sees my time,” said Mutz, now of Joplin, Mo.
“But it would have been awkward for the guy on the bicycle beside me if I ran eight-minute miles for the first hour. You get a bicycle escort, you have to race.”
Gina Hendrickson was about 16 minutes back.
Mutz, a five-time competitor at Boston who won $1,000 for her ultra victory in Fort Worth, said she has a vision of 6 hours, 45 minutes in the Kansas 50-miler.
The top-two finishers of the men’s ultra marathon featured a couple of characters.
The winner was 41-year- old Geofrey Terer, a career marathoner originally from Kenya but who trains now in Colorado Springs.
Terer completed the course in 3:03:48, a few minute ahead of a disappointed Anthony Kunkel (3:06:48).
The Cowtown race was Terer’s first at 31-plus miles. And if you think he’s in any rush to do it again, you can think again.
Terer spent about an hour in the medical tent after the race.
When asked if he planned to do another race at this distance, he said: “Not at the moment.”
“It is not easy. You really have to be strong here,” he said pointing at his head. “If you convince your mind that you are tired, you are done.”
Terer said he believes his body had not sufficiently recovered from a marathon in Birmingham, Ala., two weeks ago.
Kunkel is part of the U.S. national 100K team with plans to go to Croatia later this year for the world championships. He ran a 5K and marathon last weekend, and “that cost me today. I would have liked to have gone a little faster.”
“I really would have liked to see under three hours. So to come in at 3:06 and not win is kind of depressing.”
Kunkel, 25, is a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., and he likes it there.
“I’ll stay in college until I die, if they’ll let me.”