Elaine and Peter

Image 1 of Elaine Paige and Peter James

How We Met

Part 1: In winter of 2012 I signed up to participate in my second NYC Triathlon through the organization Team In Training which raises fund for Leukemia Lymphoma Society. This year I was going to serve a mentor to a cohort of new TNT participants. Being a mentor meant sending weekly training emails, helping with fundraising, and providing support along the participant’s journey. One of the participants I was assigned was a guy named Peter. Peter was participating in his first triathlon. We first officially met at a TNT kickoff in February of 2012 at a High School on the Upper East. My first impression of Peter was that he was a “nice guy” as I was dating someone else at the time. During the 6 months we exchanged a few pleasant email about the experience and befriended each other on social media but no sparks flew. I later learned Peter was also dating someone else.

We both finished the triathlon that July and went our separate ways. Over the next nine months post triathlon, I would occasionally see Peter’s posts on Facebook. Then in April of 2013 a certain Instagram post caught my attention. We were both signed up to run a 5K in Central Park that coming weekend. This was the weekend after the Boston Marathon Bombings and the NY Road Runners community charged the race bibs to read “BOSTON STRONG”. Peter added this photo on Instagram and I immediately liked it and commented “I’m also running tomorrow. Running for Boston”

I was looking forward to possibility running into Peter at the race but I overslept which unfortunately is something I have been known to do in the past. Sadly Peter and I did not run into each other that day.

Part 2: I had decided not to do the New York Triathlon for a third time knowing I needed a break from the weeks of training that went into the event. While I wouldn’t compete I wanted to participate in some way so I had decided to volunteer as a race day course Marshall stationed right at the start of the run on 72nd & Riverside. The Friday before the triathlon weekend my grandmom fell into a comma. I debated not volunteering but ultimately decided the triathlon is an incredibly inspiring event that provides me with energy. I was supposed to report for volunteer duty at 5:30 am on Sunday. In a shocking turn of events I overslept and was jolted awake at 5 am and realized I had to get to my volunteer station was at 72 th & Riverside ASAP.

While cheering, I saw so many attractive athletic guys ran past me and I remember thinking “I should have brought a poster board with my phone number on it. This is the perfect place to met someone.”
Then at 11 am I saw a familiar face running towards my volunteer station wearing his token Fordham pinnie jersey. I jumped into the middle of 72nd and started cheering “Looking Good Peter! Keep it Up!” and gave him a high five.

I was excited to see Peter participating again but I didn’t think much of our smaller exchange.The hours following the triathlon were hectic. I went back to my apartment quickly changed and got on a commuter train to Princeton, NJ to be with my mom who was caring for my grand mom. In the following days, my grandmom passed away. Obviously, it was an exhausting day and the following week continued to add a lot to my plate. One bright spot came on the Monday after the triathlon when I got a Facebook message from a familiar face. ‘Thanks for the high five!’ From Peter Whalen. We went on our first date three weeks later and the rest is history.

how they asked

I knew the proposal was likely going to take place some time during the fall of 2016 but didn’t know how or when Peter would propose. In mid-September, my friend Liz invited me to her Birthday Brunch at the Boat Basin on Saturday, October 8. I didn’t think anything more of this. The Saturday before the proposal, I went ring shopping with my mom and sister. This was actually just a decoy as Peter had picked out and had the ring in his possession for over a month!

The two weeks before the proposal, I was traveling non-stop – I ended up staying in 5 different hotels in a two-week span. So to the say the least I was busy. The Thursday before, my friend Natalie said she had an extra ticket to the Beyonce concert on Friday night. I promptly said yes! She suggested we meet up before the concert and get our nails done and get ready together. I didn’t think anything of this, as I obviously wanted to look good for Queen Bey. (Natalie ended up running late at the office and we ended up not getting manicures.) I called Peter that night and told him about Beyonce. He was oddly inquisitive about my schedule for the weekend and asked if I would still have enough to attend Liz’s birthday. Then on Friday morning, there were reports of hurricane like rain expected for New York City that weekend. Liz texted me “Hurricane or not, brunch is on.” I thought this was strange, but chalked it up to the Birthday girl getting final say!

I arrived home to our apartment on Friday evening and immediately noticed our home was spotless, which I thought was odd since I hadn’t been home all week and our monthly cleaning service wasn’t scheduled for that week. I asked Peter “Did you clean? The place looks great!” He replied something like “I too like to clean.” I started to get suspicious. I went into the bathroom and called my best friend, Alita and point blanked asked “Is Peter proposing to me tomorrow?” she practically laughed and told me I was overthinking his odd behavior and likely had the engagement on my mind as I had recently looked at rings. I also started texting my sister Caroline asking why Peter was acting weird. She immediately texted Peter “Act cool, she’s getting suspicious”!

Saturday morning I woke up and got ready for a doctor’s appointment I had on the Upper West Side. Peter asked me a few times to confirm that I would meet him on 72& Riverside after the appointment. On the way to the appointment, I decided to cancel and instead get a manicure. I had a hunch. I met Peter at 72 & Riverside and it was starting to drizzle. He was waiting on a park bench with an umbrella reading. Nothing seemed off. We started to walk into Riverside Park, I saw a sign on a tree that read “Run Fast. The Fun is just beginning.”

Image 2 of Elaine Paige and Peter James

I gestured to it and Peter swiftly replied, “a race is happening.” A few more feet I saw another sign that read “Art Supplies: $20, Balloons: $25, Flowers: $50, This Moment: Priceless”. A few more feet in and another sign “Warning! Surprises at the Finish Line.” I looked at Peter and asked now shaking “Is this happening?” He said we had to keep walking as to not be late for brunch. We approached a pedestrian tunnel to go to the part of the park near the Hudson river and I noticed balloons decorating the bridge and the last poster which read “No time to stop we’re just getting started” and filled with pictures of us.

Image 3 of Elaine Paige and Peter James

Peter got down on one knee, now he was shaking too! He said it was only appropriate to return the favor and make some signs for me in a place that was special to both of us. He said he would swim in the Hudson River a thousand more times if he knew it meant I would be waiting for him at the finish line. And then he asked me to be his wife.

Image 4 of Elaine Paige and Peter James

I said Yes!! A few seconds later, we heard a roar of cheers. I thought our family and friends were hiding nearby but it actually was a youth soccer game! It was a fun touch. A photographer popped out from behind a tree and said he had caught the whole thing and asked to take a few more staged photos. I felt like I had just completed a triathlon, I was on a high and slightly short of breath!

Our sisters planned a cocktail party for that night so we could celebrate with our closest friends and family. The best part outside of the actual engagement was learning about all the planning Peter put into the proposal. He had been coordinating all the arrangements for over a month!

Image 5 of Elaine Paige and Peter James

Special Thanks

Danny Tirmiz
 | Photographer