Runner Ben Klinkenbergh faced the race of his life to get to the finish line of the Brighton Marathon yesterday.
But it wasn’t his ‘personal best’ timing that he was worried about, it was getting there before his girlfriend Hannah Jennings - because he planned to propose to her.
And after running the 26 mile race, Ben said: “Getting down on one knee was the hardest bit because my legs had fairly seized up.”
But happily Hannah, a PE teacher at St Wilfrid’s School in Crawley, said yes. “She was absolutely gobsmacked,” said Ben. “She had no idea I planned to ask her to marry me.”
Hannah, 26, said it was the best day of her life: “There were lots of hugs and tears.”
Ben, 33, a personal trainer from Haywards Heath, had planned the day with precision and had told family and friends of his plans. He gave the ring to his mum for safekeeping while he was running - and she handed it back to him as he approached the finish.
Meanwhile, Hannah ran the race alongside Ben’s sister Sam. “As we got to the finish, I crossed the line and Ben was waiting for me. He was being interviewed about the race and the interviewer then asked him if there was anything else Ben wanted to say.
“He then said some lovely things, that he was so proud of me and that I make him stronger every day. He then said: ‘You make me follow my dreams’ then he got down on one knee. I was very shocked but, of course said yes.”
The couple, who have been together for three years, later toasted their engagement with Champagne on Brighton beach and went on to celebrate some with family and friends in a bar.
Ben completed the marathon in 3 hours and 51 minutes and Hannah completed it in 4 hours 20 minutes.
They were both running to raise money for Friends of Embark, a charity for young people with learning disabilities.