Race to the altar! Sunset Park woman proposed to at finish line of half-marathon

Wedding bells: Sunset Park man Christopher Harper proposed to longtime girlfriend Joan Ayala at the finish line to New York Road Runners’ Half Marathon on Sunday.
Photo by Adam Hunger

She’s no runaway bride!

A Sunset Park woman ran smack into a marriage proposal from her longtime beau on Sunday, as she crossed the finish line of a two-borough half-marathon that kicked off in Prospect Park. The surprise romantic gesture bowled over the bride-to-be, who said she only expected to collect the standard medal at the end of her 13.1–mile trek.

“I was in complete shock,” said Joan Ayala. “I just saw him standing there with a medal and broke down full on ugly crying, and then he got down on one knee and it was perfect. It was the best proposal I could ever imagine.”

The proposal came four years after Ayala started dating her fiancé Christopher Harper — and eight after she began running the annual United Airlines NYC Half in 2011, according to the avid runner, who said she dropped hints throughout the couple’s time together that if Harper wanted to pop the question, he should do it at the race.

The Sunset Parker assumed her not-so subtle signals just went “in one ear, and out the other,” she said. But her main man picked up on her cues — and knew exactly how to execute the perfect proposal, he said.

“She’s always said that if you propose to me, this is how I want it — do it at the finish line,” Harper said. “So, I took the cue and made it happen.”

This year, organizers of the half-marathon for the first time started the race in Brooklyn’s Backyard, after debuting a redesigned route last year that started in Grand Army Plaza.

More than 24,000 runners from around the world competed in the 2019 race, which took them from the park down Flatbush Avenue and over the Manhattan Bridge into the distant isle, where they trotted to the finish line in Central Park.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
She said yes: The happy couple post-proposal.
Photo by Adam Hunger

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