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Well, if Hollywood movies have taught us anything, it's that troubled relationships can be completely patched up by a mad dash to the airport!—Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons
Most commonly found in Romantic Comedies, Race For Your Love usually occurs five minutes or so before the credits roll.
Alice and Chuck have become involved. There's chemistry. Sparks. But, for whatever reason, Alice has turned her back on this budding romance. Sometimes it's because she's convinced "we're too different" or "we come from different worlds" or some other rationalization that it'll never work out. Sometimes there's another person in the picture, and Alice feels honor bound to go through with the lesser romance.
Chuck, also being honorable, straightens his shoulders and prepares to deal with losing Alice to the circumstances or bad luck leading to this situation. But because it's too painful for one or both of them for him to stay around and remind them both of what might have been, he must leave. Fortunately, there's usually some job opportunity in another city, or he was only visiting this one temporarily anyway.
Then Alice suddenly has an epiphany: she really does love Chuck too much to not be with him! She loves him more than Bob, who she was going to marry instead. She loves him more than her job, or whatever other situation had cropped up that made her think she had to choose it over Chuck. But ...he's about to leave because she shot him down! If she doesn't turn around and get back to him right this minute he'll be gone, she'll have missed her chance, and she'll have what might have been haunting her forever.
So, newly inspired, Alice hops into a cab or some other mode of transportation to get her back to Chuck's arms as quickly as possible.
But as Drama would have it, the road back to romantic bliss is full of obstacles. There's bad weather or bad traffic or some other impediment that makes it impossible for her to get all the way there in one smooth cab ride. But Alice is determined. She will, she must get to the train or plane or other conveyance that's about to take Chuck out of her life forever, before it's too late!
So she gets out and runs, because love compels her to.
Occasionally there's a twist where she gets there, all out of breath and ready to confess how she feels -- but he's already gone, his plane already taken off. Or is he? He's standing right behind her, because he couldn't leave. Or because he hoped or knew she'd come around. Or maybe just because he got stuck in traffic and missed his flight.
Alice, in this situation is almost Always Female, but occasionally you find the roles switched and Chuck is the one doing the running.
Needless to say, due to the nature of this trope, spoilers below.
- Done in both the Cardcaptor Sakura anime and manga, with Sakura racing to give Syaoran a homemade teddy bear before he leaves for Hong Kong. Played with more in the manga, as Sakura had realized her feelings beforehand, but Syaoran's unannounced departure forced her to run after him, and possibly subverted as Syaoran was leaving in order to sort out residency issues in Hong Kong so he could live in Japan with Sakura permanently.
- The last episode of Karin has Kenta and Winner racing to catch up to Karin and have Kenta confess his feelings.
- In Peach Girl, Kairi was supposed to meet Momo at the train station if he truly loved her, and if he didn't show, then she would assume that he didn't. Since his brother got attacked and hospitalized, Kairi was too late, and because of the horrible weather, he had to run the rest of the way to the beach where they were going to stay for the weekend... only to find that Momo had gone with Toji instead.
- A platonic version occurs in Game X Rush, where instead of the other person (Yuuki) leaving, he's supposedly just going down to his hospital room; Memori, however, has his Spidey Sense go off, and something tells him that Yuuki is going to leave again, so naturally he rushes downstairs (from the roof) for the intercept. He doesn't make it in time, but don't worry; after three years spent Walking the Earth, Yuuki comes back.
- An interesting version occurs at the very end of School Rumble: Tenma makes a mad dash to the airport where Karasuma is about to fly to America. What makes this example unique is that Tenma only gets to the airport on time courtesy of Harima, who is in love with Tenma.
- Captain Tsubasa has a pretty iconic scene about this trope in its junior-high arc. After the Furano team loses against Nankatsu, their manager Yoshiko must leave to the USA. She also happens to be the team captain Matsuyama's Love Interest, and they have been Twice Shy like whoa until then: Matsuyama pulls this trope to go to the airport and tell her that he loves her.
- Appropriately, The Flash: Wally West didn't realize how he felt about Linda Park until she was about to leave for a job in another city, and this trope then ensued. Due to a super-villain and a malfunctioning watch he didn't actually make it in time, but seeing as he's a super-speedster he just caught up to her train, and they had their dramatic reunion there.
- One issue of The Incredible Hulk had Betty leaving on a train to be in a convent, and naturally one of Bruce's enemies shows up on his way to the station. They battle it out and Bruce sees the train leave just as he gets there, and falls to the ground defeated... and then hears Betty standing behind him with a suitcase.
- In Empire State, Sara and Jimmy have an ongoing debate over how plausible the ending of Sleepless in Seattle was. When Sara moves away and Jimmy realizes how much she meant to him, he tries to recreate the ending of the film, by writing her a letter pouring out his heart to her and asking her to meet him on the observation deck of the Empire State building. He acknowledges there's a chance he'll just fail and make a fool of himself, but he figures it's better than spending the rest of his life wondering what could have happened. Reality Ensues: As closing time approaches and Sara still hasn't shown up, Jimmy phones her and discovers that Sara never received his letter, and thus has no idea that he's in New York in the first place.
- Hilariously sent up in the epilogue to the semifamous Neon Genesis Evangelion Hentai Doujinshi RE-TAKE. Being Eva, it's probably no surprise that it's painfully and pointlessly subverted or that the genders are flipped. Its Not What It Looks Like...seriously, there's not as much porn in that chapter.
- Do the readers know how many fanfics are built around this one? Ranma ½, Urusei Yatsura...in fact, anything with a Tsundere or by Rumiko Takahashi (her fondness for Slap Slap Kiss relationships may be to blame).
- Crocodile Dundee: Sue is about to marry the guy her dad approves of, who will make her wealthier than she is already. But she has realized she loves Mick. She is too late to catch him at the hotel; the doorman has told her Mick's going Walkabout, which means if she doesn't catch him, she'll never see him again. She hails a cab. But New York City traffic is beastly. So she gets out of the cab and runs. And she sheds her high heels and bits of her clothing that are impeding her from making truly impressive speed.
- Flushed Away: Roddy makes it safely back to his cozy little home with his cozy little cage, only to realize what the bad guy's plot is. Plus, he's realized how he feels about Rita. So he asks Sid to flush him right back down into the sewer so he can rescue Rita, apologize, and ask that she let him stay with her.
- The Holiday: Amanda Woods, realizing she loves Graham on the way to the airport, tells the driver to turn around and go back whence they came. When he gets to a part that's a little tricky [potentially dangerous, even] to navigate the car out of, she gets out and runs -- on snow, in high heels -- to Graham's.
- Hitch has the title character throwing himself onto the car she's trying to leave in.
- Amusingly subverted in Hot Shots!, in which the male hero, seeing his girl (apparently) fall into the arms of his rival, gets into an F-14 Tomcat and takes off; she mounts an inexplicably-present horse and chases him down the length of an aircraft carrier but is unable to stop him.
- How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days: Tweaked example. The girl is the one about to leave and the guy is the one chasing. Except the guy in this case has the sense to get his own wheels. A motorcycle, I think.
- The Last Starfighter: has a short one. Maggie runs to join Alex before he takes off...to leave the trailer park, and Earth forever.
- Love Actually: Sam risks upsetting post 9/11 security in a mad dash across Heathrow Airport to confess his heart to the girl he loves. And his father encouraged him to do it! He is about 10, tho.
- Liar Liar: a tweaked example, in that Fletcher is about to lose his son Max forever, so he runs to the airport. Because it's a Jim Carrey comedy, he also ends up chasing the plane down the runway on foot, and then using a motorized staircase.
- Sleepless in Seattle: Annie confesses to Walter why she's in NY. And Walter, who'd proposed to Annie, tells her she should go. She gets into a cab. It gets stuck in traffic. So she gets out and runs. She's too late, but things work out for her anyway... but that's a romantic comedy for you!
- Spider Man 2: MJ leaves John Jameson at the altar and runs across Central Park and what is, presumably several blocks downtown [St. Patrick's Cathedral to the Battery is oh, probably 60 blocks, even as the web slings] in her wedding dress to turn up at Peter's door.
- Sort of subverted in When Harry Met Sally, when we think he's running to be able to kiss her at midnight. Then he says he just couldn't stand being apart from her any longer than he had to.
- In the recently made TV movie of the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, after receiving Captain Wentworth's love letter Anne Elliot, dodging another character trying to tie loose plot ends, promptly runs what seems like the entire length of 19th-century Bath to get to him immediately, only find his relatives, who inform her he's gone to meet with her, obliging her to run even faster all the way back home. Thankfully he's still there when she gets back.
- Bridget Jones Bridget Jones' Diary]] subverts this twice; he appears not to be interested the first time she shows up, and at the end, he wasn't really leaving.
- The trope sees one of its worst-ever uses in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, in which the race for love goes on for interminable length, even cycling through THREE different songs before Bridget reaches Darcy
- Happened off-screen in the backstory to The Family Man: the turning point between the protagonist's reality and the Alternate Universe he's thrust into is whether he listened to his girlfriend's plea for him to stay.
- Kate races to the mailbox by The Lake House so she can send Alex a letter warning him not to show up for her on Valentine's Day. If he does, he'll die in her arms and they'll never be together to meet her later at the lake house.
- At the end of Kate and Leopold Kate sees herself in photographs that her friend took earlier of a ballroom scene in Leopold's home time, and realizes that she is fated to be there with Leo. She races to get to the time rift before it closes, keeping the two of them apart forever. Meanwhile, Leopold has consigned himself to an unhappy life married to the homely (but presumably rich) Miss Tree, and is about to announce her as his choice when he sees his beloved miraculously in the ballroom crowd.
- Notting Hill. "Oh, sod a dog. I've made the wrong decision, haven't I?" followed by "Chuck" crashing a press conference.
- Keeping the Faith, in which Rabbi Jake runs across town, tries to enter his ex-girlfriend's office, gets ejected by security guard, enters a neighbouring office, makes placards to hold up to the windows, and finally is forced to confess his love on speakerphone with the entire office listening in. But since the ex-girlfriend is total hottie Jenna Elfman, you can't blame him for putting in a bit of effort.
- A rare female/female example in Imagine Me & You.
- The endings of most early Woody Allen rom-com. A way to inject action into talky films.
- Tom has already confessed his love to Hannah in Made Of Honor, and she was about to confess the same, until a "hilarious" misunderstanding due to Not What It Looks Like caused tragic reactions. But he still gets a short distance from the castle, turns around, and races back on horseback to arrive just in time to Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace. Actual Hilarity Ensues.
- In the 1964 film Sex and the Single Girl, the race lasts for 15 minutes, and involves three couples, two cars, two cabs and a police motorcycle.
- In Back to The Future III, Clara is on a train bound for San Francisco to try and escape her broken heart, because she thinks Doc Brown lied about being from the future. When she overhears some men talking about the Doc and his broken heart, she realizes she's making a mistake and stops the train, then jumps off and runs to join him as he's firing up his new time machine.
- The Singles Ward has the hero racing from Provo to Salt Lake City International (in twenty minutes!) to intercept the girl he loves before she boards a plane for her mission. She shoots him down... and marries him when she gets back. Mormon girls everywhere sighed in romantic contentment.
- This trope is discussed, lampshaded, and then exaggerated by the Bollywood movie Know It or Not in a clever way.
- Used at the end of Act One of the film of Funny Girl. Fanny Brice has realized that she loves Nicky Arnstein and wants to be with him, so she tells Ziegfield and all his follies to go jump in a lake and takes the train to see him. But when she finally gets to New York - his boat is gone. So she pays a little cargo ship to ferry her to her one true love, singing her heart out all the way.
- Subverted in Letters to Juliet, Charlie gets there but sees Sophie embraced and leaves.
- A variant in Slumdog Millionaire, where Latika does the mad dash to to get to a phone to answer it before it hangs up.
- In Christmas in the Clouds, Ray just barely catches up to Tina before she boards her plane. They passionately embrace as the scene turns into a pastiche of a trashy romance novel cover... Then we cut back to Ray, still sitting in his car as the narrator cheerfully explains that Tina's plane took off long before he could even find a parking spot. At least he remembers that the U.S. Postal Service exists and explains his side of the Third-Act Misunderstanding through a series of letters. It works; Tina comes back to see him again next Christmas.
- Used in Defending Your Life with the variant that he joins her on the bus to the next life.
- A variant in The Apartment, where Fran runs to Baxter's apartment after midnight on New Year's Eve, not knowing he's packing to leave.
- Subverted in Loveless In Los Angeles. The main character decides to make a mad dash to the airport to stop his love interest from leaving forever. His friends cheer him on, they figure out how to get there quickly, he opens the door...and the love interest is standing there.
- The final scene of Love Exposure finds the protagonist Yu freshly recovered from his Heroic BSOD racing to get to the girl he is in love with as she is being transported away in a police car.
- The Graduate: When Ben's car runs out of gas on his way to stop Elaine's wedding, he is forced to sprint the rest of the way. At least he gets to make use of his career as a track star.
- Subverted in the novel Angels by Marian Keyes. At the end of the book, the heroine rushes to the airport in pursuit of her estranged husband, but is stopped by security guards. She returns home, only to find him there waiting for her - he decided not to get on the plane after all.
- The German Book/Movie Im Juli is basically one big Race For Your Love across Europe.
- Tanya Huff's The Second Summoning has a slightly diluted version of this trope. Claire the Keeper spurns puppy-eyed Dean in a deluded attempt to protect him from her profession. After enough secondary characters convince them they're both being idiotic, Dean drives all the way from the east coast to Kingston, Ontario in record time -- in a van -- to reunite with her. Subverted in that the race happens almost at the beginning of the book rather than the end.
- A variation was used in the L. M. Montgomery story Here Comes the Bride. The girl would have let her true love go, but her family housekeeper drives after him, leaving a trail of wreckage behind her car, and persuades him to come back.
- At the end of The Mammoth Hunters Ayla realizes that she wants to go with Jondalar and runs to tell him, just as he is leaving.
- In PG Wodehouse's Uneasy Money, Elizabeth has just ditched Lord Dawlish because she worried that he'll think of her as a Gold Digger and that it will destroy the peace of any marriage that might occur between them; he can't talk her out of this and catches a train in despair. Just after he leaves, she gets the news that she's actually going to inherit the money that was supposed to go to him. Cue a dash to the station to get on the train with him before he leaves forever.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer had the flight one happen as well, except she actually fails to get there before the helicopter takes off--with the guy in question on it. But what do you expect from a Joss Whedon show?
- On Ugly Betty, Kirsten Chenowith urged Betty to run and stop Henry from getting on a plane, and Betty mentioned she had other things she needed to do that day, didn't have the flight number, and would have trouble getting past security. Later Amanda mentioned this as a way for Marc to get back together with Cliff, but as he was in the same room at the time, Marc just went over and talked to him.
- Friends used this a lot, in either gender permutation, most notably in the finale.
- Subverted in In Plain Sight, when Mary's drive to the airport to chase after Rafe is stopped by all kinds of traffic...and a train...and Mary driving her car onto the train tracks and getting her dress caught in the door...as the plane flies over her head.
- The final ten minutes of Queer as Folk, in what probably cements Vince and Stuart as the official romance of the series. Their tempestuous relationship finally convinced Stuart to split for London, and Vince being too delusional or too stubborn to make an effort to stop what would have undoubtedly spelled the end of their time together, the situation leads to Stuart actually packing up and on being the verge of leaving town. However, Vince's mom pulls all the stops in an effort to get Vince to Stuart before he leaves, and they end up reuniting and reconciling moments before Stuart drives off (and leaving town together, apparently for good.)
- Ed from the show of the same name tried this with Carol in a rare male example. His run included getting on a horse, but like some of the examples above, he didn't quite make it on time...
- Liz Lemon did a lower key version of this; after a fight with an ex-boyfriend while he was in town, she chases him to the airport to apologize, and give him her apartment key, just in case he visits again.
- Lampshaded later when Jack is about to do this, but finds his girlfriend still waiting at the bus stop.
Jack: I was about to do the whole "run to the airport" thing like Ross did in Friends and Liz Lemon did in real life.
- A rare platonic example in the last episode of Spaced: Daisy is leaving London and taking a train to get a job at a local paper, and Tim, not having any other means of transport, rides to the station on the back of his Robot Wars robot. (It is, we are told, "slightly quicker than walking".)
- Korean Series loooove this trope, particularly when combined with an Orbital Shot.
- Dawson's Creek has many of them, usually Joey chasing after Dawson or vice versa. One notable exception is Joey chasing after Pacey at the very end of the third season, trying to catch him before he leaves with his boat for the entire summer.
- Used in an episode of Masterpiece Theatre's Bramwell, which finds the title character racing to the train station--in the rain, no less--to assure her fiance that she stills loves him and still wants to marry him, despite the huge argument they had several days prior.
- Seen in the "Union Station" episode of ER, which featured Mark Green racing to the train station to catch Susan before she leaves. He declares his love for her. . .and the trope is then shocking averted when she gently rebuffs him and leaves anyway.
- Sir Richard does the Regency version--trying to catch his love on the stagecoach before she gets to London--in The Corinthian. Slight variation--the stagecoach has already left, but his carriage catches up to it.
- An episode of Scrubs was all about J.D.'s mad rush to get to Molly Clock before she left, with a note from Eliot saying it was okay for them to have a relationship. Too bad the note actually said "Now we're even".
- Parodied in another episode when J.D., who has been unsupportive towards Kim taking a job in Seattle, is shown running to the airport to tell Kim that he supports her decision, at which point they kiss, the rest of the queue cheers, and they sink to the airport floor. We then cut from the Imagine Spot to J.D. helping Kim pack, while she perplexedly asks "And then everyone just watches us make out?"
- Done in Goodnight Sweetheart, with Yvonne on the Eurostar, and Gary chasing after her. She's angry enough to ignore him, but then he trips over a luggage trolley and she has to see if he's all right.
- An episode of the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland had Melanie chasing her ex-husband to the airport, with a security guard even lampshading how much she loves this trope. Except then she subverted it by calling him out on what a selfish asshole he'd been to her, and how she was crazy to think she could ever want to get back with him.
- "Virginia" by Jeremy Messersmith. Not quite a straight example, as the singer's lover has already moved to a different state, and he is contemplating going to meet her there rather then stopping her from leaving in the first place.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Kafei races across Termina to reunite with Anju after retrieving his mask. Depending on how much of the sidequest the player completed, she might not be there.
- Katawa Shoujo uses this as the climax to Lilly's route. Lilly's on her way back to Scotland with her sister Akira, and Hisao tries to chase her down. Unfortunately, his heart acts up in the airport, with Lilly's back in sight, and he passes out before he can get her attention. He comes to in a hospital later, dejected with his failure. And then the familiar tone of Lilly's music box plays... meaning that Lilly did notice and did stop herself from leaving her happy life in Japan behind, to please her parents in Scotland. The Epilogue reveals that she stays with Hisao (and Hanako), while Akira and her boyfriend go to Iverness to be with the Satou family.
- In Step 5 of There She Is Nabi makes the mad dash for Doki in an unusual boy racing for the girl role-reversal.
- And turns it into the absolute Crowning Moment of Awesome for Nabi, if not the entire series.
- Parodied in this Afterellen.com Short Film Contest Winner.
- Lester pulls off an excellent one toward the end of Awkward.
- Parodied in a promotional sketch for He's Just Not That Into You, which outlined the top 10 romantic comedy cliches not present in the plot of He's Just Not That Into You. One of them is "Chasing down a person you love through an airport to stop them from doing something".
- Repeatedly mocked in the Clone High episode "Plane Crazy: Gate Expectations", to the point of being an Overused Running Gag within that individual episode. Notably, most of the instances were a boy (Abe) pursuing a girl (Cleo).
- Parodied in the Drawn Together episode The Other Cousin.
- The page quote comes from the Simpsons episode "Mommie Beerest". It's Homer making the drive, but it's not really an example since he had just convinced himself that Marge liked Moe better when, naturally, she didn't.
- In January 2010, a 28-year-old man ran past security at Newark Liberty International Airport to kiss his girlfriend before her flight took off. Sounds romantic, right? Actually, it's a good example of why doing this is a terrible idea in Real Life. The entire terminal was shut down for six hours, flights were cancelled and delayed around the world, 1,600 passengers were stranded inside the terminal and it cost taxpayers and airlines millions of dollars. The guy was arrested after a five day manhunt and found guilty of defiant trespass; the reaction of most New Jersey residents was that his subsequent conviction and sentence of a $600 fine and 100 hours of community service wasn't nearly enough punishment.