KINGFIELD, Maine — When Michael Glynn reached the finish line of Sunday’s Sugarloaf 15K road race, he immediately went to one knee.
But he wasn’t reeling physically from the 9.3-mile run along state Route 27 from Carrabassett Valley to downtown Kingfield.
In fact, he felt great.
Glynn merely was bowing to tradition in taking a step much bigger than any he had taken in any road race — proposing marriage to running partner Mary Graziano, a fellow teacher at the Hartland Consolidated School.
And Graziano said yes.
“It’s quite amazing,” she said. “The ring’s a lot better than the medal you get for finishing the race.”
So much for the loneliness of the long-distance runner.
Actually, Graziano knew what was to come several miles before the finish line.
Glynn was aided in his proposal by two other Hartland Consolidated schoolteachers, Kelly McCullough and Anna Palo, who made and then placed a series of one-word signs at every other mile marker along the Sugarloaf 15K route.
At Mile 1, the sign said “Mary,” followed by “Will” at Mile 3, “You” at Mile 5 and “Marry” at Mile 7.
The most difficult challenge for Glynn as he ran with Graziano early in the race was getting her to notice the signs.
“I completely zone out when I run, I’m just listening to my music and I’m not much of a talker,” said Graziano. “He pointed out the first sign to me, and I nodded that I saw it and that it said my name, but I didn’t think it was anything about me.
“But when we got to the sign that said ‘You,’ I pretty much knew. I said to him, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? How do I finish this race now?’”
Both Graziano and Glynn did finish together, Graziano in 1 hour, 39 minutes, 52.2 seconds and Glynn two-tenths of a second back.
“When we got to Mile 7 and the sign said ‘Marry,’ I thought where’s the ‘Me?,’” said Graziano. “But as we crossed the finish line, I was wobbly and having trouble breathing because of all this when he turned to me, knelt down and pulled out a smaller card that said ‘Me’ on it. I think he had the ring attached to the card.”
The proposal also solved a mystery for many of the record 1,331 runners that competed in either the 15K or companion Sugarloaf Marathon held the same morning.
“It was crazy,” said Glynn. “Everybody was screaming and hollering, and you could hear a lot of people saying, ‘That’s Mary, that’s Mary.’”
This was a symbolic location for Glynn to pop the question, given that the 2011 Sugarloaf 15K marked the first race the Bangor couple had run together.
“When I ordered the ring they said it would take six weeks to come in,” said Glynn, “so I thought to myself what was coming up six weeks from now, and I knew it was right about the time of Sugarloaf. I thought that would be just about right.”
Graziano and Glynn met shortly after Glynn took a job teaching second- and third-graders at Hartland Consolidated School at the start of the 2010-11 academic year.
Graziano, already a fourth-grade teacher at the school, was running regularly with McCullough when Glynn and Palo joined them in their “Teachers on the Run” group, which works out together and organizes after-school running and fitness activities as well as local 5-kilometer road races each month.
“Kelly and I were friends, and then Michael and Anna came to the school and started running with us, and that’s how Michael and I started hanging out,” said Graziano. “The rest is history.”
Glynn said he and Graziano typically run 10 to 15 miles per week together, a training regimen that increased late last summer as they prepared to run an early October marathon in New Hampton, N.H.
“It’s kind of how we first met and fell in love, running together,” said Glynn.
The Teachers on the Run group also organizes fundraising activities such as a “Cabin Fever Lock-In” last January in which students collected pledges and then spent a night in the school gymnasium doing physical activities. The event raised more than $1,000.
“What we’d like to do is eventually get a track for the school,” said Graziano.
In the meantime, there are plans more personal for the couple to arrange.
“We don’t have a wedding date yet,” said Glynn. “It seems like it would be perfect to do it next year at Sugarloaf, but I don’t know if I can wait that long.”