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Runner takes break to propose marriage

November 23, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

A romantic thing happened on the way to the finish chute.

Running in his first JFK 50-mile ultramarathon, Richard Keplinger, 24, of Gettysburg, Pa., stopped before the last straightaway. There was nothing unusual about that; his girlfriend, Katye Balls, 24, of Washington, D.C., had met him at at least a half-dozen different break points.

"He came up running," she said. "He stopped to give me a hug."

But this time, "he ended up on one knee," she said. Balls wondered what was happening - then she figured it out.

Keplinger proposed. Balls accepted.

Then, Keplinger finished the race, engaged.

The race took about six months of training for Keplinger, who said he used to help at the aid stations while he attended Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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Asked whether he had run such a great distance before, he said, "Only in my mind."

That's also where he hatched his unusual marriage proposal, which required carrying an extra piece of cargo the whole race.

"I couldn't pick up the ring along the way," Keplinger said with a smile.

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