After running 13.1 miles during the Starved Rock Country Half Marathon in Ottawa on Saturday, most runners just want some water and to relax.
But Keith Gercius of Burbank had an important question on his mind after crossing the finish line behind his girlfriend Jackie Skrobot of Kankakee.
Gercius decided drop to one knee and propose.
“I was totally in shock,” Skrobot said.
With the finish line as a backdrop and the families in attendance, Gercius knew that this was the perfect time and place for him to ask the big question.
“It was a great joy that everything came together,” Gercius said. “We ran some of the race together today and she beat me by two minutes. Both of us motivate each other.”
Gercius reached out to event organizers, friends and family members while keeping the list short to maintain the surprise for his now fiancée.
Maintaining the surprise Gercius did, as Skrobot said that she was focused on finishing the race. She said she was happy, but suspicious, to see so many of her friends and family in attendance.
“It was a complete surprise,” Skrobot said. “I was kind of wondering if something was up because some of our friends are here. I was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ and they were like ‘We came to check out the race.’ Something in the back of my mind was thinking something is up here.”
Skrobot’s son, Lucas Skrobot, said that even he didn’t know that a proposal was in the works because the family was worried he might let the surprise slip.
“Almost everybody thought that I was going to spill the beans,” Lucas said. “I would not have spilled the beans if I knew this was happening.”
The half marathon brought out hundreds of runners as they competed for their best times and endured a long grueling run throughout the morning hours.
For Gercius this was a great time to celebrate a special moment as he and his fiancée have come to enjoy Ottawa and the entire Illinois Valley since they have met.
“The Starved Rock community is a community that we love and loves you back,” Gercius said. “I enjoy the people, I enjoy the music and the food. We’ve come here and celebrated Father’s Day and I’ve run this race ever since the first one.”
While both Gercius and Skrobot have run this race many times since its existence, this half marathon in 2021 is sure to be one they will never forget.