I met this guy. After chatting a while, he mentioned that he was registered to run the ING New York City Marathon. He’d never run a marathon before. Heck, he’d never been on a single run, he said. He belonged to an Ultimate Disc league, a sport that requires a lot of running. But he was no runner. His sister had talked him into it, he said. The race was nine months away and he had no idea how to train for it.
As luck would have it, I was a runner. I ran the New York City Marathon just three months before, and was registered to run it again as well. So I offered to show him the ropes of marathon training, and take him on his very first run.
It was an unseasonably warm February day. We headed out to Central Park, where we’d met for a casual walk just a week before. We ran up to Belvedere Castle overlooking Turtle Pond and the Great Lawn, then jogged through the Ramble and back to the southern entrance to the park. He’d never visited those parts of Central Park before, he said. Stick with me, I said. As a runner, you see a lot of things you don’t notice otherwise.
Well, he stuck with me. Four years later, that guy is my fiancé, and running has played a large part in our courtship. I’m just the latest in a long line of runners to fall for another runner, melding the ideals of running and love. We’ve braved three marathons, 30 other races, and countless runs together. We train with the same team and plan our weekends around long runs. He even describes himself as a runner now.
Running has played such a large role in our lives that he even planned his proposal around a race—the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon.
It was his first trip to Walt Disney World. He wasn’t exactly a Disney kid as a child, having been raised in five countries around the world by escapees of Polish communism. But I was a big Disney kid, and even talked him into naming our dog Cinderella. “Talked” is a strong word. He liked the idea too. Having fallen down that rabbit hole with me, it seems he was ready to fall down another. Of course, it was a complete surprise to me.
My mother and sister called me before the race to wish me good luck. They’ve always been supportive of my running, but they certainly don’t call to wish me luck before every race. I chalked it up to their excitement that it was my first Disney race and Phil’s first trip to Disney, and being big Disney fans themselves, they wanted to hear all about it. My mother insisted I call her after the race. I told her I wouldn’t be finished until midnight since the race started at 10 p.m., but she insisted I call her anyway.
The race itself was exhilarating and fun, running through the Disney parks at night, lit up in all their glory. When I crossed the finish, I saw Phil waiting for me. He’d already retrieved his bag from bag check and seemed in a hurry to get to the after party at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
I got my bag, changed into a dry pair of clothes and called my mom.
“Hi! We finished the race!” I said.
“Oh, great! How was it?” she asked.
“It was awesome. Really fun! Now we’re going to ride some rides and get some food.”
“Oh, okay,” she said. She sounded expectant. “Have fun!”
Epcot was open just for the runners and their families who came to watch the race. I thought we should take advantage and hit some of the rides. We headed over to Test Track and were about to go to Soarin’ when Phil insisted he was hungry. We really should hurry up and get some food, he said. So we headed over to the World Showcase pavilion where all the food carts were set up. After stopping at the Greek and Portuguese carts, Phil suggested we find a quiet place to sit away from the 8,000 runners and their families.
We wandered into Morocco and stumbled upon the Fez Room, which was covered in mosaic tile with a fountain in the middle. It was romantic and empty, so we sat next to the fountain and nibbled on our food and wine from Portugal. We were still wearing our race medals.
“Can I ask you a personal question,” he asked.
It was so non sequitur, I almost started laughing, but then I saw the deadly serious look on his face.
He later explained that his line was inspired by a bit of dialogue from his favorite movie, The Thomas Crown Affair starring Pierce Brosnan. I was, of course, aware that The Thomas Crown Affair is his favorite movie, but I didn’t remember the dialogue. Crown says: “May I ask you a very personal question?” His leading lady, played by Renee Russo, says: “Why not?” Crown: “Would you like another hit of espresso?”
It would have been funny if I’d remembered all of that and played along. But I didn’t.
“Yes, of course,” I said a little puzzled.
Then he kneeled and pulled out a vintage Birks silver ring box and popped it open. A beautiful vintage sapphire and diamond ring stared up at me
“Will you marry me? Will you be my princess forever and ever?”
I was shocked. I really hadn’t expected it at all. Of course, I said yes. We spent the rest of the night running around Epcot taking pictures at every country, eating food and giggling. We were giddy.
He later confessed that he was planning to propose at the finish line of the race, but changed his mind at the last minute. He’d told my mom he was planning on doing it then, which was why she asked me to call right after I finished. Most shockingly of all, he’d checked the ring in his race bag.
Either way, it was perfect. We’d just run a half-marathon at one of my favorite places in the world. I had good food and wine in my belly and was with my favorite running buddy. It was the perfect proposal for a pair of runners and Disney fans. We’ve since run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Disneyland together and are headed to Disney’s Princess Half Marathon later this month. I’m even having my bachelorette party on a Disney cruise.
But to be a runner who loves another runner is truly a gift. I get to have my favorite running buddy by my side everyday—someone who will train with me, commiserate with me over bad runs, and high five over good runs too. Someone who motivates me, inspires me and believes in me, even when I don’t. Someone who welcomes the early morning races, the weekends scheduled around long runs, and vacations built around races. Someone who will be by my side, stride for stride in life and on the road. To be lucky in running and love is to be blessed indeed.
As part of the running media, runDisney provided me with complimentary race entry, hotel, park tickets, and some meals for the 2011 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. But as always, all opinions are my own. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.