Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Runners wed in colorful finish

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 5/5/2014

Melissa Hubbard hiked her wedding dress and took off running down Locust Street in front of Ottawa’s Forest Park.

The 30-year-old Ottawa woman might have looked like a runaway bride in her dress and sneakers, but she was running to her wedding — not away from it. And her fiance, Damien Emley, 43, Ottawa, was running right along side her in his black tuxedo.

Melissa Hubbard hiked her wedding dress and took off running down Locust Street in front of Ottawa’s Forest Park.

The 30-year-old Ottawa woman might have looked like a runaway bride in her dress and sneakers, but she was running to her wedding — not away from it. And her fiance, Damien Emley, 43, Ottawa, was running right along side her in his black tuxedo.

The pair were joined in matrimony in Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., minutes after they finished running in the Communities In Schools of Ottawa Color Craze 5K Run/Walk, which began and ended near the east shelter house in the park.

“I did the color run last year, and I really like to run,” Hubbard said before the start of the race. “My fiance and I are very nontraditional, and what better way to have all our friends and family participate than running in the 5K.”

Hubbard wasn’t nervous about getting married, she said about 9 a.m. Saturday in the park. The biggest challenge, she said, would be running in her wedding dress.

“It won’t be my fastest 5K, but it will be my best-dressed 5K,” she said, laughing.

The race marked the first time the two had run a 5K together, Emley said of the 3.1-mile course that wound through the downtown area and City Park before returning to Forest Park. Volunteers manned stations at intervals throughout the course to throw brightly colored powders on the participants as part of the Communities In Schools fundraiser event.

“Melissa runs all the time, but this will be my first 5K,” Emley said on the mild, sunny morning. “I’m in pretty good shape, so I’m not too worried. I just hope the cool weather lasts for a little longer this morning. I think it’s going to get hot in this tux.”

Emley, a registered nurse since 1999 at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, said he and Hubbard, who both have children from previous marriages, had been friends on Facebook for some time before they decided to go out on a date about 2 1/2 years ago.

“We went out on a few dates and then started going together,” Emley said.

Emley was flanked Saturday morning at the park by his two daughters, Ana, 15, and Raylee, 13, both of Lyndon, who were getting warmed up to run in the race. In all, 16 members of the couple’s group of family and friends participated in the race.

“I think it’s pretty unique,” Ana said of the couple’s decision to run the 5K in their wedding attire and then get married afterward, mere yards from the finish line. “I don’t know about the running part, but the rest of it should be fun.”

Knowing that they would be showered with a rainbow of colored powder, Hubbard and Emley found a used dress and tuxedo to wear for the occasion, Emley said.

SPLASH OF COLOR

“No tears for the bride, only colors,” Rick Walters, Ottawa, said of his daughter’s wedding plans minutes before the race started. “I think it’s a really neat idea.”

The bride’s mom, Cathy Walters, Yates Center, Kansas, also liked the idea.

“I think it’s awesome,” Walters said. “This is what they like to do.”

SarahAnn Brown, a good friend of Hubbard’s who graduated from Ottawa High School with her in 2001, said making the wedding a part of a 5K race was fitting.

“We’ve both lost weight since we took up running,” Brown, an elementary school teacher in Olathe who has lost about 110 pounds, said. “Running really has transformed our lives, so why not [make it part of the wedding]?”

Hubbard chose the Communities in Schools Color Craze 5K because she wanted to give back to the organization by participating in the fundraiser, she said. Hubbard’s two sons, Logan, 9, and Lawson, 6, participate in the organization’s after-school program at Lincoln Elementary School, 1102 N. Milner Road, Ottawa. Both boys also participated in Saturday’s run.

“I think it’s a fun idea, and I think it’s really great that Communities in Schools could be part of their special day,” Jamie Keiter, Communities in Schools program director, said.

Hubbard and Emley crossed the finish line holding hands.

“It was perfect — I wouldn’t change a thing,” Hubbard, panting to catch her breath, said.

The dye-splattered bride looked at her soon-to-be husband, whose face and glasses were coated in a powder blue. “Well, maybe we would get Damien a lighter-weight tux.”

WEDDING IN THE PARK

After all the couple’s family and friends had crossed the finish line, the Rev. Scott Dickinson, pastor of Cherry Street Wesleyan Church, 933 N. Cherry St., Ottawa, gathered everyone near the shelter house to begin the service. About half of the more than 160 people who participated in the 5K race stuck around to witness the wedding.

“This is one of the most colorful weddings I’ve ever performed,” Dickinson said to laughter from the crowd.

Before the service, the longtime pastor said he has done a number of nontraditional weddings through the years, including one on horseback.

“This might be my first one tied to a run,” he said. “I thought it was a great idea, and I was all for it. Marriage is a celebration. We have perfect weather for it this morning — this is awesome.”

Hubbard was beaming as she and her father walked together, arm and arm, through the grass at the start of the ceremony.

Before the service, Hubbard contemplated the couple’s future.

“For our 10th [anniversary],” she said, “maybe we’ll run a 10K.”

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