It’s our passion; it’s our friends; it’s our community.
But even more than that, running is, in so many ways, at the very core of the couple’s relationship. It is what first brought them together, as undergraduate students in Illinois, where the pair built a friendship as running partners.
It is also what reunited them years later, and thousands of miles away. After relocating to the Bay Area independently and a few years apart, Andrew and Lisa began running together again, initially through the San Francisco Running Company’s weekend store runs. They grew closer together with every mile logged, mountaintop ascended, vista well earned, and each corresponding conversation. The pair began dating, and, with much credit to their shared love of running, their relationship accelerated quickly.
“The earliest memories I have of spending one on one time with Andrew are of us going for runs around the University of Illinois campus, circling cow pastures and talking about all the things that were important to us as 22-year-olds,” says Lisa, who is now a graduate student at Stanford University in Palo Alto. “Now we do the same thing, circling the Headlands, talking about all the things that will be important to us for a long time to come.”
Running plays a huge role in their partnership, they say, and Strava plays a major role in their running. The couple use Strava regularly, as a training tool, a way to share the sport with each other and with fellow training buddies, and as a means of connecting with other local runners.
“I’ve been a Strava athlete since early 2014,” says Andrew, who works for a small enterprise tech company in San Francisco. “I’ve found it to be a really useful to see how my friends and people I admire structure their training. It has become more and more important to my training, and also to building my running community here.”
In many ways, the runs the couple has logged together serve as a symbolic representation of the progress of their relationship. So when it came time earlier this spring to usher in a new chapter in their story – the one that would mark the beginning of the rest of their lives together, Andrew knew he wanted to incorporate both running and the Strava community in his proposal to Lisa. So he came up with a creative and unique idea to sneakily merge his proposal with the activity he was recording on Strava.
Here’s how it all went down, from both perspectives …
Andrew was training for the Canyons 100k race on May 7. He was in a 12-week training cycle, and he’d been having some fun by creating a different theme each week for the titles of his runs on Strava, like quotes from movies, hashtags, or alliteration. He had already planned his proposal for the third Saturday in April (on a run, of course!), so that week he incorporated it into his theme, using his workout titles as a weeklong build-up to the big day. He titled his runs as a series of ascending questions representing various relationship milestones.
Here are the links to Andrew’s Strava files for the week:
“Hello, what is your name?”
“Would you like to go to dinner sometime?”
“What is the most important thing in the world to you?”
“Would you like to meet my family?”
“Are we exclusive?”
While Andrew says he thought he was being clever and “kind of sly” with his proposal plan, in hindsight he learned that by mid-week Lisa had grown suspicious, and she’d developed a pretty good idea of what she thought might be coming next – or at least she hoped!
“We’re both hopelessly addicted Strava users, so it’s very common that we’re looking at each other’s workouts and seeing what’s going on,” Lisa says. “When I saw the files at the beginning of the week I started to get a hint, but I wasn’t completely sure yet. I asked him, ‘What’s your theme this week?’ And he said, ‘You’ll find out.’”
The big day:
For day six, Andrew had carefully planned his proposal, which would take place during one of the weekly San Francisco Running Company (SFRC) store runs that the couple regularly attended.
“I thought that would be fun in that the SFRC runs were such a big part of how we started dating,” Andrew says. “We’re both so hugely appreciative of the running community here in the Bay Area, and I really wanted to use that as a conduit for the proposal.”
Andrew had talked with the owner, Brett Rivers, about planning a special route to a ridge overlooking the San Francisco Bay. That morning, just a day removed from his “Are we exclusive?” run, he ran out just a bit ahead of Lisa, with an engagement ring stowed away in his handheld water bottle. When he got to the viewpoint he’d already picked out at the top of the ridge, he waited.
Just a little ways back, Lisa’s confidence about what those titles might mean was growing, and so too was her excitement. While she’d been pondering the possibility of Andrew’s proposal all week, it wasn’t until that morning that all the pieces came fully together and she really felt sure. After the run set off in a different direction than normal, and Andrew ran up ahead of her on the last climb to the viewpoint, Lisa thought to herself,
This would be a pretty great place for a proposal.
And sure enough, as she came around the final bend to the top, there was Andrew, ready to ask his final question:
Lisa’s brother Patrick, who is a photographer, was one of many family members and friends Andrew had invited out for the weekend to help celebrate, and he was already at the viewpoint ready to capture the moment.
“It was so picturesque,” says Andrew. “It was a sunny and beautiful day, and I was so thankful to be in this place that captured both the trails in Marin that we both enjoy so much, and a view of the entire city of San Francisco where we started dating and where we really started our story together.” Lisa echoes Andrew’s sentiment, saying,
Making that lifelong promise to each other in a place that’s so meaningful to us — and specifically through running — it felt just right.
Andrew says friends and family were not at all surprised by the nature of his proposal, as it was so fitting for the couple’s lifestyle. They received plenty of congratulatory comments on the big news, in person, on the phone, and of course through Strava, where they made their first “public” engagement announcement, posting the final workout in Andrew’s series, titled: “Will you marry me?” Lisa also uploaded her run with the title: « Ever After. » Both deserve some kudos!
For Lisa, Andrew’s Strava proposal really brought their relationship full circle. It was through Strava that Andrew initially discovered the SFRC runs, she said, and it was that setting and community that enabled the couple to really start spending time together.
“I thought it was spot on for us,” she says of his plan. “He related it to something that is such a big pillar in our relationship – the shared love of running. It felt very unique, and I was just so humbled by the thoughtfulness and craft that he put into it.”
Now that they’re engaged, Lisa and Andrew are eager to welcome many exciting changes in their lives and their relationship, but they know running is one thing that will remain a constant.
“Running will definitely stay a big part of our lives,” says Andrew. “It’s just a really special way to share time with each other, and something we both really value. It can be a hard lifestyle to understand, so having someone who also appreciates it and someone to support you in it, that’s really significant.” And to that, Lisa adds:
We will definitely be each other’s biggest cheerleader for as long as we can scream.
Photography from Patrick Mazzocco