This has been a big week for Shannon Rowbury, and it’s far from over.
On Tuesday, while Rowbury was in Golden Gate Park doing the last hard workout of her season, it was announced that the San Francisco native will soon move to Portland to join the Nike Oregon Project and be coached by Alberto Salazar. On Sunday, she will line up for the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile Presented by Nissan, a race in which she won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
In between, she spent Thursday in New York City celebrating her 28th birthday with her mother, Paula, and her fiancé, Pablo Solares. And on Friday, she has a date with Kleinfeld Bridal—of Say Yes to the Dress fame—to try on wedding dresses.
“They say that when it rains it pours, and fortunately it’s a lot of good things that seem to be coming into my life right now,” said Rowbury in a telephone interview as she drove to get some lunch after practice Tuesday. “It’s lots of change, but I’m grateful for people like Pablo and my parents. No matter how much change life throws at me, they stay constant.”
Rowbury is among the most consistent “big stage” female milers in U.S. history, with a 2009 IAAF World Championships bronze medal at 1500 meters and the top two Olympic Games 1500-meter finishes ever by an American woman, seventh in 2008 and sixth in 2012. Solares, 28, holds Mexican national records at 800 meters, 1500 meters, and the indoor mile. He proposed to Rowbury, his girlfriend of three years, in London on August 24, in front of that city’s version of Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture, which in New York City in on the corner of 54th Street and Sixth Avenue—across from the Fifth Avenue Mile athlete hotel.
After strolling around London that day, Rowbury recounted, “we quote unquote happened to walk by the LOVE sculpture.” Solares took a photo of her, and then asked her to reciprocate. Instead, when she took the camera it was playing a video he had made.
“At the end of the video, he knelt down and proposed in front of the sculpture,” she said.
They are planning to be married in the spring of 2015, “of course, after the indoor season is done but before the outdoor season is started. The indoor track and field calendar hasn’t come out yet, so that’s cramping my style a little bit.”
The day after he proposed, Rowbury said, Solares dropped another surprise: He had made an appointment for her to visit Kleinfeld Bridal during their Fifth Avenue Mile trip. Her mother will join her despite the complication of being in a wheelchair after surgery to repair a tibial plateau fracture. She sustained the serious injury in a cycling crash while out on a casual Sunday ride with friends in June.
“It’s been a long road to recovery,” said Rowbury, “but I think the words “wedding dress” will create enough adrenaline to get her through it.”
Upon returning to San Francisco after the race, Rowbury and Solares will start scouting places to live in Portland, with a plan to relocate sometime next month.
But first, the business at hand in New York City. Although this will be the first NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile for Solares, Rowbury—the 2007 NCAA Indoor Mile Champion—has competed in the event every year since turning professional later that year. Besides winning in 2009 and 2010, she has finished fifth (2012), seventh (2011), and second (2008). In that debut race in 2008, her runner-up time of 4:19.2 gave her the third-fastest time in the 33-year history of the race.
When asked why she tends to do well in this race even at the end of a year’s track campaign, Rowbury said that just the opportunity to compete in the U.S. after a long European season is motivation enough.
“But also, after so many track races to be able to get out on the roads enables me to race a little bit differently and approach the race with a different mindset. It’s the last race of the season, but at the same time it feels very fresh.”
And despite the birthday and wedding-dress excitement in New York City, she made clear, “Running is definitely my priority there.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg