A BRIGHTON marathon runner stopped one and a half miles before the end to get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend.

Ben Parsons, 34, stunned girlfriend Anna Jefferson, 36, who was watching with their children Nancy, three and, Thomas, 11 months, and she feared he was struggling when he started to slow down on Hove seafront.

Ben, of Preston Park, Brighton, popped the question and she said yes before Ben still managed to get a personal best – finishing his sixth Brighton Marathon in 3hrs 36min.

Ben, a former Argus crime reporter and now a University of Brighton lecturer, carried the ring in his bumbag waiting to spot Anna in the crowd on Sunday.

“I wanted to do something romantic to surprise Anna and the marathon has such a feel-good, loved-up atmosphere anyway so I knew it would be the perfect time,” he said.

“Judging by the look on her face, she was certainly surprised. Once Anna had said ‘yes’ and we’d had a big sweaty hug I had to get on the move again so my legs wouldn’t seize up. As I ran off I got a big cheer from the crowd. It felt like the climax of a minor British rom-com.

“I had an extra spring in my step for the last mile and a half.”

He said that the pressure of the proposal spurred him on and brought the finishing line a bit closer.

But he joked: “If I hadn’t seen her in the crowd maybe I would have just carried on to the end and taken the ring back to Argos.”

Anna, who works for Arts Council England, and has been dating Ben since they met at City College Brighton in 2002, said she never expected the proposal.

She added: “There had been a guy just before him who had got a cramp and had to stop for his friends to massage his leg. Then Ben started slowing down and I thought ‘oh god he’s going to collapse or something’.

“I had no idea what he was planning.

“In hindsight he suggested before that I wear something nice so we could go out for something to eat afterwards.

“I should really have twigged when he asked me to take his brogues in the bottom of the pram. Who wears brogues after running a marathon?”

The couple said that the Brighton Marathon will now always hold a special place in their hearts – and provide cheap anniversaries.


The most inspiring stories of Brighton Marathon

A MAN who successfully completed the Brighton Marathon after collapsing with a heart attack six years ago has vowed to never run another.

Joseph Tanner, 33, from Brighton, took on the marathon challenge to prove to himself he could do it following his battle back to health.

He was running the Hastings Half Marathon six years ago when he collapsed. His heart stopped for seven minutes as volunteers and medics battled to save him.

Mr Tanner was diagnosed with Brugada syndrome, a condition that causes a disruption of the heart’s normal rhythm.

He had an internal defibrillator fitted, which will kick-start his heart if it suddenly stops. Mr Tanner finished Sunday’s race in 4hrs 28mins.

He said: “I’ve promised my family and friends I won’t run another marathon and I will keep to it.”

Debt collector Matt Stapleton, 32, of Compton Road in Brighton, carried 4.5 stone of extra weight on his back throughout the race.

He completed the race in 7hrs 59mins and said: “The race was long and hard and at times I wanted to rip the 20 kilo weight vest off or throw the 10 litres of water I was carrying but I gritted my teeth and kept going.”

Serial marathon runner Andy Guest completed his eighth in Brighton by pushing his friend Olly Coulson around the route in a wheelchair, finishing in 6hrs 42mins.

Four brothers raised more than £2,000 for the charity Whoopsdaisy.

Drummer Harry Lehane, who fought off testicular cancer and celebrated his recovery by running the marathon, beat his £1,000 fundraising target by £265 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Nigel Bowcock, of Hove-based Acre Landscapes, raised £2,000 for the charity Perennial.

Neil Horan, the Irish dancing ex-clergyman known for disrupting famous sporting events, finished in 5:30.

Dubbed the Marathon Wrecker, the 67-year-old was permitted to perform a celebratory jig and did not disrupt the event.