Brian Sagedy did not cross the finish line Sunday morning at the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon, although he spent more than four hours hovering near the area, sharing smiles.

Sagedy, along with fellow announcer Ian Brooks, helped thousands of participants enjoy the final seconds of their running achievement with a mixture of humor and high fives.

“You feed off the people and their excitement,” said Sagedy, a Virginia Beach, Va., native who announces about eight races a year nationally for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series. “It’s a great sense of accomplishment.

“You see a lot of expressions. Some with relief. ‘Hey, I made it.’ Some with a lot of sense of accomplishment. And then for a lot of them, because of charities, they’re running on behalf of someone. You see a lot of them tear up.”

Brooks also offered his take after watching a man and woman approach the finish line: “See, there’s a gentleman. He’s going to let her finish first. He knows how life works.”

Others get married

During the first four hours, Sagedy and Brooks were right there to call play-by-play for four marriage proposals and even helped one bachelor find his bride-to-be. Brooks announced to the crowd of spectators that Haley Stark had agreed to marry Joel Hall, who hid an engagement ring in the back of his running shorts. Thanks to friends, Stark, who ran the half-marathon, was near the finish line when Hall, who ran the marathon, approached, digging for the ring.

“I was patting it probably every 15 minutes when I was running,” Hall said of the ring.

Two decades ago, Sagedy said, the running community would not be so enthused about such theatrics, but times have changed.

“If you weren’t running a certain pace, the running community really didn’t want you to be out there,” Sagedy said. “But now, it’s become much more inclusive. As you can tell, the numbers have just exploded (in two decades).

“We have a lot of people now that feel like they can do this.”

Running and good times

The Gotta Run group of Katy, Texas, knows, well, how to run. From the Ironman Triathlon and Louisiana Marathon to the Houston Marathon and the New York Marathon.

They also know how to have a good time.

The group accomplished the latter during Sunday’s race. No running this time around.

“This is just our fun one. We do it as a group, together, have some drinks and enjoy it,” Melissa Viktoria said after competing the half-marathon course.

“We have our races that we train for, but we have our races where we walk the entire time and have a blast doing it,” Kayla Fincher said.

Promoting good health

Merie Abercrombie is part of a small percentage of black women who participate in running.

Abercrombie, 55, traveled to New Orleans from Lake Jackson, Texas, with a group of eight. She was the lone black female. She finished the half marathon course in just under 3:15.

“I’m all into promoting good health,” said Abercrombie, a personal trainer and former competitive bodybuilder. “I love to participate in anything that keeps me active. It’s about fitness. I have to be a representative in the community.”

Along with a friend, she plans to start educating black women in the Greater Houston area about health and nutrition.

Numbers and more numbers

17: Medical stations at the race. 28: The number of countries represented in the race. Runners also hailed from all 50 states. 33: Course clocks. 40: Bands. 120: Shuttle buses. 450: Port-o-Johns. 500: 40-pound bags ice. 6,800: Trash bags. 15,000: Popcorn, bottles of Gatorade, PowerBars, cartons of chocolate milk. 15,500: Registered runners (62 percent female, 38 percent male). 16,000: Bananas. 30,000: Bottles of water at finish line. 100,000: Safety pins. 300,000: Paper cups.