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8 November 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 5:12pm

On marathon day, I will stop for no one – not even someone with a diamond ring

A video of a man proposing to his girlfriend mid-race has gone viral. But for me, marathons are the one thing I do for myself alone. 

By Helen Morrissey

Like many others, I have seen the video of a man proposing to his girlfriend as she hit the 16-mile point of the New York Marathon. She accepted straightaway and rushed off into the distance with a smile on her face – it wasn’t a surprise that such a lovely moment went viral on Twitter. However, while marathon running is a spectator sport, I’m not so sure marriage proposals should be.

It’s not that I’m not a romantic at heart. When I ran the London Marathon in 2017 I ran alongside a couple who had chosen to marry that morning and then run the marathon together. I thought it was amazing that they had planned this together and the only people who were surprised were their fellow runners. In contrast, watching the New York proposal made me think about the perils of public proposals in this age of social media.

It is a brave person who decides to propose in such a way – to say you are putting yourself and your partner under huge pressure is an understatement. I’m sure the couple in question are both extremely happy, but what if the proposal was not so welcome? The pressure to say yes would be enormous, especially if you are being filmed. By that point in a marathon I am hot, sweaty and flustered – that’s extra pressure I would not need. Far better to run the marathon first and save the proposal for later.

I also can’t help but think what would have happened if she had said no? Would she have abandoned her marathon attempt or would the temptation be to just keep running to get away from a horrible situation? The idea of such a video being shared gives me the shivers.

Another issue is whether a runner would have even been aware of the proposal in the first place. The woman in the video was happy to stop running and speak to her boyfriend, but to be honest, I wouldn’t have stopped. I’ve run six marathons now and I’ve been really lucky to have family and friends come and cheer me on at most of them. They know the closest thing to interaction with me during a race is a high five as I go past. I would never stop for a chat. In short, if someone wanted to propose to me during a race they would need to be running alongside me as they did it.

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You may think I’m being unreasonable, but for me marathon day is the culmination of several months of hard training. I run endless miles on cold, dark, rainy mornings, usually with a goal time in mind – it’s a huge experience. Come marathon day, I may slow down to pick up a bottle of water, but if I think there’s a chance I might get a personal best time I stop for no one – not even someone with a diamond ring.

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I’m no world record breaker when it comes to running, but it’s probably the one thing in life I do for me and me alone. As a result, I’ve become quite selfish about it. I’ve been lucky enough to make many good friends through my various running adventures, but when it comes to race day, I run by myself. When I run, I don’t care what I look like and I go through a whole range of emotions – it’s my experience. I just don’t think I’d have the ability to process being proposed to, have the whole thing filmed and then have to run another ten miles.

Of course we are all different, and the woman in the video may well have loved the fact her boyfriend proposed in the way that he did. But in my case, let me run my marathon in peace, and propose another day.