At Hospital Hill Run, some stop for water, two stop to marry

Ray Franks and Cyndi Smith of Blue Springs exchanged vows Saturday at the 12.5-mile mark of the Hospital Hill Run.
Ray Franks and Cyndi Smith of Blue Springs exchanged vows Saturday at the 12.5-mile mark of the Hospital Hill Run. Special to The Star

Euphoria and pain. Trials and triumph. A long road with plenty of ups and down that you face together.

Sound like the annual Hospital Hill Run?

To Cyndi Smith and Ray Franks of Blue Springs it also sounded like the perfect analogy for marriage.

Which is why, just after 10 a.m. — with their muscles aching and their gray tank tops soaked through with more than two and a half hours worth of sweat and rain — Smith, 41, and Franks, 48, stopped their run Saturday for a brief 5 minutes at the 12.5-mile mark along the half-marathon course. At the crest of Trinity Hill south of Liberty Memorial, the last hill on a route that would end only 0.6 miles away, they got married.

“I Cyndi, take thee, Ray, to be my husband,” she said. “And I promise before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful wife, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.”

Then Franks smiled and promised the same. They stood beneath a small tent tied with dangling purple and white balloons. A dozen or so friends and family watched. Smith’s bridesmaids had run alongside them with “Team Bride,” printed on their purple shirts.

A second marriage for both, they will blend their families. Franks’ daughter, Bri, 17, stood near Smith’s sons, Gabe, 15, and London, 11. Smith’s parents came from North Carolina. Her dad, Don Lein, walked his daughter the few yards from the course to the tent.

“Tradition,” he said.

“Marriage is an important and sacred institution and not to be entered into lightly,” the Rev. James Gale, a Presbyterian minister and family friend, said when he started the short service.

Although the mood was light (Smith ran the course with a white veil tied like a pony-tail), the moment was sacred to them. Strong in their faith, they chose Trinity Hill, near the former Trinity-Lutheran Hospital and overlooking a city cast in gray clouds, for its Biblical meaning.

To them, the wedding plan just seemed right. Both are avid runners. In the years after their mutual divorces, they met at local running club. He’s an investigator with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office; she works in billing for CarterEnergy Corp. They’d both had traditional weddings in the past, so why not this?

“Especially those who know me can’t picture me doing anything else,” Smith said. “I am not the dress-up-and-get-all-fancy type person. It totally fits.”

They said they planned to donate any wedding gifts to Family Promise of Lawrence, a non-profit that helps homeless children and their families. Wedding rings were waiting at home as running causes what Franks called “fat fingers.” They tend to swell.

“Cyndi, I give you this as a sign of our covenant,” Franks said as he slipped a black rubber “I (heart) my wife” band around her wrist. She did likewise.

“With the power vested in me…” the minister said.

They kissed. They hugged. Friends and families hooted and clapped. As a benediction, the minister joked that, like the remainder of the 41st annual run, “it’s all downhill from here.”

The couple embraced their friends and checked their watches.

“Congratulations!” passing joggers yelled, chugging past the group.

“So,” the minster said, “on your marks, get set, go in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

Cyndi and Ray Franks then ran off together.

To reach Eric Adler, call 816-234-4431 or send email to eadler@kcstar.com.