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'I love you, Tiffani' | Former UT cross country runner proposes to his girlfriend after finishing 2020 Austin Marathon

"Seeing the look on her face as I asked her to spend the rest of her days with me will forever be the highlight of that day," Pinales told KVUE.

AUSTIN, Texas — Just two days removed from Valentine's Day, love still ran through the air as Austinites prepared to make their 26.2-mile treks through Texas' capital. 

At the starting line, the gun fired to begin the Austin marathon and the runners were off ... putting one foot in front of the other. 

For 26.2 miles, one of the contestants, former Texas Longhorns cross country runner Mark Pinales, took many steps closer to a moment of a lifetime. 

In his pocket for those 26.2 miles, was the engagement ring for his girlfriend, Tiffani Nguyen, who was waiting for him at the finish line. Pinales used to run cross country for the University of Texas, and said he had never properly prepared for a marathon before.

"I have actually attempted two marathons before," Pinales said. "I set lofty goals for myself and didn't have the proper training or dropped out due to injury. This was the first time I had actually prepared for the marathon, but got injured in early January. I was only focused on recovering and getting into as best of shape as I could. I was going for a top-three finish, but old injuries flared up throughout the race and then I just focused on finishing."

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In an Instagram post by Pinales, he said Nguyen was the only thing on his mind as he pushed through old ailing injuries to finish the last 10 miles of the marathon. 

"Today is hands down the best day of my life," Pinales said in the Instagram post. "I (sic) finishing my first marathon and proposed to the woman I get to spend the rest of my days with. The race did not go my way as old injuries flaired (sic) up and I had to muster every bit of strength I had just to finish. @nguyeningsince90 was the only thing on my mind as I pushed past the last 10 miles walking/jogging/hobbling just to see her at the finish line. Couldn't have been more worth it. I love you, Tiffani. I can't wait to start building our life together! Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who helped make this moment happen! I couldn't be more grateful for all those who had hand in today!"

Pinales told KVUE having the ring with him kept him motivated. 

"Having the ring with me throughout the race was extremely nerve-wracking, but also very motivating to get me across the finish line as quickly as possible," Pinales told KVUE. "I was trying to focus on racing while reciting what I was going to say at the finish line."

Pinales said he met Nguyen met at a bar dancing. 

"I saw her across the room in a crowded bar and tried my best to ask her to dance," Pinales said. "I missed my chance several times, but finally got the opportunity. We danced until the bar closed. I asked for her number and we've been inseparable ever since. We just celebrated out two-year anniversary on Nov. 4."

And, for all of you wondering out there, she said yes. 

"The thing I will remember most is the look on her face when I got down on one knee," Pinales said. "The fact that I was able to keep everything a secret, organize with family, the Austin Marathon, and High Five events was a difficult task without her knowing, but seeing the look on her face as I asked her to spend the rest of her days with me will forever be the highlight of that day."

Congratulations to you both, Mark and Tiffani! 

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