Do you remember where you were when you heard about the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year? Kelli and Robert Watling do because they were saying their wedding vows…just a few blocks from the finish line.
Longtime avid runners, the Watlings have competed in several major marathons around the country, but they consider Boston to be the ultimate race. “It’s the marathon of all marathons,” says Kelli who is a practice administrator for a large neurology physician practice based here at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
After finishing the Chicago marathon, they decided if they both qualified for the Boston Marathon, they would tie the knot right there at the race.
The plan was to hold the ceremony at the Boston Public Gardens, a park three blocks from the finish line that is a popular gathering spot for runners after the marathon. A few friends and family would be present and Kelli’s father would officiate the nuptials.
Their wedding attire was also running inspired. Kelli’s dress was made from moisture-wicking material used to make running clothes and Robert’s tuxedo, as well as her’s father’s, were converted track suits–“traxedos” as Kelli and Robert like to call them.
Robert finished the race with one of his best times ever which happened to be about an hour and a half before the first bomb exploded. Twenty minutes after crossing the finish line (before the first bomb went off), Kelli headed back to her hotel to get ready for the wedding.
“I remember hearing a loud noise as I entered the hotel, but it sounded like a big garbage truck so I thought nothing of it,” said Kelli. “But a little while later, I was getting my hair and makeup done and started to get a flood of calls and text messages from friends and family asking if we were okay. It was then that I realized what happened.”
Given the circumstances, some people may have canceled their wedding plans, but the Watlings made the decision to proceed as planned, especially after learning that the bombing may be terrorist-related.
“We didn’t want the terrorists to derail our plans and stop us from celebrating our marriage. It was unnerving as you can imagine because we didn’t know what would happen next. There was a lot of uncertainty,” she said.
Kelli said the normally busy park was eerily empty and quiet that day except for the sounds of police cars and emergency responders in the background.
“Our ceremony music was the sound of sirens,” she said.
During the ceremony, a photographer from Buzzfeed.com happened to be in the park and began to snap pictures of the wedding. It resulted in a flurry of media coverage and the Watling’s story quickly spread.
The Watlings are again competing in the Boston Marathon this year and this time, they have another special event to celebrate—Kelli is pregnant with their first child.
“We are expecting a little girl in October. We couldn’t be happier,” says Kelli.
The Watlings celebrated their anniversary this weekend at the same restaurant where they held their wedding reception last year.
Since their marriage began at the Boston Marathon and their first child will essentially participate in this year’s race as well, Kelli says it would only be fitting that her name reflect their love of the Boston Marathon.
“Her middle name will probably have some sort of relation to Boston or running,” she says.
We have signed up to get text updates on Kelli’s progress in the race Monday morning. You can follow along on Twitter at @BaylorHealth. In the meantime, she has been sending us photos of their trip to Boston this year.
Join us in cheering Kelli and Robert on this year. We wish them all the best!