Chicago SWAT Member Races 15K in Gear, Saves Life, and Proposes to Girlfriend

When Sgt. Michael Nowacki of the Chicago Police SWAT Team had a day off this past weekend, he needed to find something to do. His longtime girlfriend, Officer Erin Gubala, was busy working the finish line of the Hot Chocolate 15K as part of Chicago Police’s bike patrol unit.

Nowacki, an avid runner since he joined the Army in 1990, decided he might as well run the race, and represent his department while doing so—by completing it in his SWAT gear. An experienced marathoner with 11 Chicago Marathons under his belt, a 15K wouldn’t be that bad.

The gear aspect, though, would be a little challenging. Nowacki, 46, had done a few 5Ks in it, but tripling that would be a decent jump.

But the pros for running outweighed the cons. He’d represent his department, run for the Make a Wish Foundation, which the race partners with, and challenge himself to run that far in his gear.

The biggest reason, though, was an opportunity to surprise Gubala.

“I told her that I’d see her at the finish line and we could hang out there,” Nowacki told Runner’s World. “I’ve wanted to ask her to marry me for quite a while, so I put the ring I had gotten her in my cargo pocket and planned to ask her at the finish.”

Courtesy of Erin Gubala

The race was difficult due to his gear. As the miles added up, he slowed down, and as he neared the finish line, he was relieved that his run was almost over and nervously excited to pop the question. He had thought about what he was going to say the entire race, and he felt ready.

Then, he saw a crowd formed about 150 yards from the finish.

“I hear a bunch of people yelling for a medic from a group huddled around a woman laying on the ground,” Nowacki recalled. “I’m a SWAT medic, so I’m trained as an EMT.”

He and an off-duty firefighter from Indiana, Walter Cook, jumped in to see what was going on. When they got to the woman, they saw she had no pulse and wasn’t breathing.

Immediately, Nowacki and Cook began administering CPR. Nowacki radioed in the situation using his call sign, which Gubala heard at the finish line. She immediately alerted the ambulance at the finish, which rushed to the scene.

When it arrived, Nowacki and Cook assisted in setting up an AED device to shock her heart back into rhythm. It shocked a pulse back, and the woman was immediately taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was stabilized and on track for recovery.

“She was only 30 years old,” Nowacki said. “If she had been on a training run by herself and help wasn’t around right away, she would’ve died for sure.”

Once the woman was taken by ambulance, Nowacki continued on to the finish line, where he found Gubala waiting anxiously.

Courtesy of Erin Gubala

When he got to her, Nowacki realized he had forgotten everything he was going to say. But that wasn’t going to stop him from asking the question.

“I had this whole thing planned in my head, and the stress from the whole situation made me forget what I was going to say,” Nowacki said. “So, I got down on one knee and said, ‘I forgot what I was going to say, but will you marry me?’ and she said yes.”

Courtesy of Erin Gubala

With an eventful morning in the books, Nowacki is already gearing up—literally—for another race this weekend, as he takes on a 10K in his SWAT gear.

He hopes to keep representing CPD this way at races in the future. He’s even thinking about running the 2020 Chicago Marathon in full gear, which he wants to do for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial support for the families of those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.

From: Runner’s World US

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