Tyler Kitzman and Halie Cottrill held hands as they crossed the finish line of the 2016 St. Jude Memphis Marathon. It was their first full marathon, but just the beginning of the day’s milestones for the couple.
Friends and family were awaiting them in the finish line area at AutoZone Park, and Tyler’s brother Shane secretly handed him a very small box. Then Tyler, a 26-year-old graduate of Southern College of Optometry (SCO) in Memphis, dropped to one knee and proposed to Halie, who is also a 26-year-old graduate of SCO.
“Given the history of Tyler and I, our schooling in Memphis, our love of running, our desire to support St. Jude and the fact that we were running our first marathon — which we finished with the exact same time — I don’t think there could have been a more perfect proposal for us,” Halie said.
Of course, she said, “yes.”
Tyler, from Minnesota, and Halie, from West Virginia, met during their second year at SCO, and running was a bond they shared before they started dating. It was a way to get to know each other and to blow off steam after studying. Before running the full marathon during the 2016 St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, they both ran the half marathon in 2014 and 2015, and they always run as St. Jude Heroes.
“Our favorite part of the race has been and always will be running through the St. Jude campus,” Tyler said. “After you run through the campus, you experience a non-negotiable realization that you are going to finish the race you are running — and that you aren’t doing it solely for yourself.”
Tyler and Halie are currently doing their optometry residencies in different states, but they scheduled their wedding for July 2017 in Memphis. And, they are once again planning to run in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend as St. Jude Heroes. Halie plans to run the full, but Tyler is leaning toward the half.
“Running as a St. Jude Hero gives more purpose to our training and races. It allows us to raise awareness and support for something much greater than ourselves,” Halie said.