Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Cindy Kuzma
She wanted a short ceremony, he hoped for a big affair. They compromised with brief vows and 40,000 guests!
Like any veteran marathoner, Stephanie Reinhart usually avoids trying anything new on race day. But in Chicago this year she made a few exceptions. She hadn’t trained in the white tennis dress or jewel-laced headband she wore to the start—and she crossed the finish line with a brand new husband.
Reinhart, 35, married Mark Jockel, 46, during the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. The two hopped off the course at mile eight and said their vows under a trellis draped with race medals. After a brief ceremony and a celebratory swig of sports drink, they “did an 18-mile victory lap around the city,” says Jockel.
“I think it is a perfect metaphor for a marriage,” says Reinhart’s childhood friend Madalyn Davidson, who officiated (the two women ran cross country together in high school). “It is a lifetime, and a marathon is a very long run. Ideally, I think you want to put a lot of thought into both.”
Though their finish time of 5:25:27 was about two hours slower than their normal pace, Jockel and Reinhart definitely set a personal record for the number of photos snapped along the way, as spectators and runners alike asked to pose with the pair. “There was one guy who was like, ‘You’re the best dressed couple I’ve seen!’” says Jockel, who wore a black tech tee with a tux print. Reinhart, meanwhile, was grateful she’d made it through the entire race without a single Gatorade spill on her ivory ensemble.
Running has always been at the center of Jockel and Reinhart’s relationship. The two met in the Chicago Area Runners Association marathon training program in the summer of 2013. “We’re actually really well matched, pacewise,” Reinhart says. “We both ran with the eight-minute-mile group. So we spent a lot of miles running next to each other, getting to know each other.”
They cheered each other on in their respective marathons that fall—Reinhart finished her second marathon in Chicago in a personal-best 3:24:15, and Jockel ran Marine Corps in 3:36:15—then started dating in December. He proposed a year later at the restaurant where they spent their first New Year’s Eve together, and soon they set the Oct. 11 date.
The couple hired a graphic designer to create a special race-themed logo, which features the skyline, two running-shoe prints in the shape of a heart, and the tagline “Mile 8 We Can’t Wait.” They emblazoned it on race-poster-sized save-the-dates mailed to their 50 guests in giant cardboard tubes. Invitations came in folders labeled as “race guides” and included course maps, wristbands to keep everyone on pace for the day’s events, and bib numbers. Fortunately, guests didn’t have to poke safety-pin holes in their wedding best—each also received a personalized T-shirt to wear to the ceremony.
At first, their families seemed surprised about the swift ceremony—“they asked, will it be legal?” Jockel says—and even their running friends were a bit thrown off. “When she first said it, I thought she was kidding,” says guest Maureen Daly, who met Reinhart and Jockel through CARA. “She was like, ‘We’re going to get married during the marathon. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. So what’s your real plan?’”
But everyone agreed that, in the end, the athletic duo had chosen the perfect route. “It is very Stephanie—she does nothing traditional,” says Alaina Carrillo, another friend who arrived breathless in running gear. She’d tried to catch the couple at mile five and missed them before essentially racing them to the ceremony. “I was sprinting down the road because there’s no way to get here except on the marathon course,” she says.
A friend handed Reinhart a bouquet just before the couple crossed the finish line; afterward, they took a few more photos in specially designed bride-and-groom bibs provided by marathon staff before swinging by the Chicago Recovery Room for a quick ice bath. Then, it was time to shower and head on to their reception at a Mexican steakhouse. There, they handed out canvas drawstring goodie bags stuffed with Larabars and other treats for all attendees and special gifts like gels, Nuun, and custom-printed hairbands for their athlete friends.
Though a DJ—who was their pace-group leader during the training program that brought them together—spun tunes, the happy couple didn’t do too much dancing themselves. After a few weeks for recovery, they’ll head out for a honeymoon in November.
Perhaps not surprisingly, they’ve opted out of the customary beach trip. Instead, they’ll head to the sub-Arctic to walk among polar bears.