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Opinion: finish line proposals are a terrible idea

Finish lines should be for celebrating running accomplishments, not relationships

xiang.fuzhao Photo by: UTMB NInghai

It seems to be a trend–a runner finishes a race they have trained for months or years for, crosses the line, and their partner drops to one knee and proposes. At the recent UTMB, fourth-place woman Fu-zhao Xiang of China finished in a remarkable time of 24:50:33. Xiang had hardly stopped running when her partner was given a microphone and proceeded to make a lengthy speech culminating in a proposal.

Xiang said yes, but the move was hotly debated in the race’s live-stream commentary. Some fans quickly jumped to defend her partner’s choice of proposal, since the couple met at the start line of UTMB in 2019. UTMB perhaps was a full-circle moment for them, but surely a proposal after Xiang had enjoyed her moment of glory (and maybe had the opportunity to put her feet up) would have been just as special?

Public proposals are cringey

We’ve all seen the grand gestures at sporting events, public ceremonies, and increasingly, finish lines of races. Not only does it put one partner very much on the spot, with thousands of enthusiastic eyes on you, there’s a lot of pressure to say yes–awkward at best, inconsiderate at worst.

Let them have their finish line moment

Anyone who has trained for a race of any kind knows the hours, months and even years of effort and dedication that go into it. Xiang is a prolific ultrarunner with a long list of accomplishments, but a fourth-place finish at UTMB is undeniably an unparalleled achievement.

Crossing the finish line at UTMB is something most runners that line up dream about–the crowds, the high-fives, the powerful UTMB anthem booming out of the speakers as your name is announced. Even if Xiang’s response to being proposed to was an enthusiastic yes, she deserved to have those moments all to herself.

It steals the spotlight from other race finishers

Maybe Xiang wasn’t upset about the proposal–as some fans have argued, we never know what goes on in others’ relationships. But her partner failed to consider the other runners finishing close behind her. One runner who crossed the line after her had zero fanfare, no name announcement (as Xiang’s fiancé had the microphone) and a moment he had probably been imagining for some 24 hours went quietly unnoticed.

Even if you are absolutely sure your partner is eager for a finish-line proposal, consider the other race participants. The finish line is for runners, not romance.

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