Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Love Story

A Friend Of A Friend

I guess it all began in April 2010. (picture the screen going fuzzy, 90s sitcom style) I was in my last few weeks at Columbia, and some of my best friends (Dylan, Laura, and Brendan) called me up at 5 PM. "David," the trio said, "There is a running race at a track outside the city, and we're going to go cheer on Hannah."

Brendan, Dylan, and Laura. Still best friends.

"Who's Hannah?" I would have responded if I wasn't completely overjoyed at the thought of hanging out with friends and leaving the city. Instead, I said, "Of freaking course!" because I was very excited, yet not cool enough to pull off the real f-word.

Now this was a small race. It was a last-week qualifier for NCAAs, which means the 10k would be a mixed mens-womens race with 5 or 6 runners. There was no team bus, so Hannah would travel in the car with us. Getting into the car, I met Hannah. And that is where the story really begins.

Because Hannah is awesome. She is the type of person who has probably done dozens of Into the Wild-style adventures, but always finds a way to make it off of the bus. If she told me I needed to do a particular hike or see a particular sight, I would drop everything to heed her wishes. Hannah is Indiana Jones with a ponytail.

Hannah running on the penultimate lap.
But I didn't know any of that then. All I knew is that my singular purpose in life for the 36 minutes after the starting gun was to scream my lungs out. Hannah got the qualifying time, I yelled myself hoarse, and Brendan attempted to climb up the infield shot-put net before getting yelled at by the PA announcer. On the drive back into the concrete jungle, Hannah and I bonded over stories of adventure and plans for the future. That one conversation would be the most important moment of my life.

Because Hannah introduced me to Megan. In July 2010, Hannah sent me a Facebook message, describing an adventure. Oh, and you should probably meet my friend Megan, she is awesome and is at Duke too. Now usually, I would take that as the typical "you're going to [insert school]! I know [insert person] there!" throwaway comment and leave it at that.

But this was Hannah, so this person is either going to be weird as hell or crazy interesting. I assumed Megan was going to be something like an astronaut ninja with a pet iguana she keeps perched on her shoulder, or something like that. 

This is Hannah. She also plays bluegrass music, is a firefighter in New Mexico, and an archaeologist.

So Megan and I became Facebook friends, and I mentioned Hannah. In return, I received the nicest, most helpful, and (in retrospect) most touching 2 page response on the trails and clubs at Duke. Oh, and she described every ice cream place in a 20 mile radius in almost-disturbing detail (she called it her frozen yogurt dissertation). We arranged to say hi at some point. I think we both thought we were doing a favor for our friend Hannah.

The Megan I met (on the left) with some of her best friends and teammates on the Duke Field Hockey team. I didn't know her at the time, but I'm guessing she always wore that.

Then we cancelled on each other. And cancelled again. And again. We were both busy, and I guess we're both secret introverts. In September, I saw a girl running on the Duke Trail, who I remember as stunningly pretty. I mean turn-your-head double-take gorgeous. Apparently I didn't double-take hard enough, because I didn't put two-and-two together until months later. I guess we forgot about each other. And the story could have ended here, as a Craigslist Missed Connection. An opportunity lost.

But Megan texted out of the blue in mid-October. Frozen yogurt tonight at 9? I took a while to respond, debating the merits of seeing this friend-of-a-friend at the expense of some law school reading and Hulu watching. Then I went back and looked at those first Facebook messages. What I saw was a girl who was kind. She was funny. And, after accepting and showing up at 9 that night, I saw a girl who was take-your-breath-away beautiful.

Going off-trail on our first non-dairy date.

We closed down Local Yogurt that night (the first of many to come), fell in love over a few weeks of adventures, and the rest is history. If you've read the blog at all over the last 3 years, you've seen the relationship in pictures and stories. There are countless adventures, a few running races, and one playful puppy. There are also some lows and scary moments. But through it all, she was always my adventure girl, and I was always her partner-in-crime.

Megan and I paced together, in the rain and under the lights, as she qualified for NCAAs in the 10k.

I loved her since that first night in LoYo. And now, in August 2013, as she starts at Stanford Medical School and I start an east coast fellowship, all of those moments became a shared idea. We want to spend the rest of our lives with Hannah's friend.


The Idea:

August 14, 2013 was a normal day. It began with a long trail run (10 miles, 2000 feet of climbing), Megan's ponytail leading the way. We shared an awesome lunch, which we cooked together in Megan's Palo Alto apartment. We adventured through some scary, exciting places (though this was just the furniture section of several Goodwills in the area, rather than a formidable mountain). And we had a frozen yogurt date. I think it says a lot that our normal day, one we've shared a thousand times, is also my idea of a perfect day. So as we were sitting there, hungrily contemplating whether to go with Red Velvet Cake or Lemon Cream Cookie, it made sense when Megan said, "I want to do this forever."

Basically ice cream with caffeine. 
That ice cream-fueled comment became a deeper discussion. I don't remember it all, likely because my heart was beating so hard that it drowned out my inner monologue. All I remember is that as we walked down University Avenue, hand-in-hand, things just felt right. And Megan's smile was even more beautiful than that first night, 3 years ago, 3000 miles away.

The Big Day:

August 15, 2013 began as a normal day too. We woke up at 5 AM to go for a run, Megan sipped her green tea while I glugged a gallon of coffee, and we laughed at the updates on our Facebook News Feed. But some abnormal things started slipping into the routine. Like when I covertly placed three secretly-acquired Ring Pops into my travel bag. Or when Megan nervously packed a food bag with enough provisions to get us through a week in the wilderness.

I think she knew. Looking into her eyes on the drive through San Francisco, I definitely knew.

We arrived at the Marin Headlands just as the sun crested over the horizon. Of course, the sun is an abstract concept in San Francisco, much like dark matter. It exists, it must, but there's no way to be sure. So we set off into the fog, across the Golden Gate Bridge. 

We went down to the water and I followed Megan's footsteps along the beach. I tried to covertly take pictures, hoping to avoid rousing suspicion. Megan was beautiful. The city was beautiful. At that point, with that much dopamine, I probably would have thought a tire fire was beautiful. 

At 5 miles, we turned around, skirting the beach back toward the Bridge. My heart rate was maxed out from nerves and excitement. Megan's 6-minute-miles certainly added to the cardiac stress. Luckily, we came to the car at mile 10 for a brief pit-stop before heading up into the trails. I stealthily grabbed the Ring Pops and two shirts before taking off up the trail.

In retrospect, this run was like a million others we've done together. But there was something about the fog, and the city, and the moment that felt different. I guess an everyday run is always different when it's with a one-in-a-million girl.

Or one-in-a-billion. One in seven billion. I guess that's what I remember most about when Hannah told me that I had to meet her friend. This girl is going to be different. And Megan did not disappoint. She is brilliant but she'll laugh at a poop joke. She is beautiful but will poop behind a tree whenever necessary. She is badass but can fit in at the most formal function in the most stuffy location. She is weird and I wouldn't change a single one of her quirks. 

With our Addie.

After 12 miles through the city and onto the Marin trails, we reached a rainforest. We have amazing memories from that spot from when we visited Stanford in October 2012. Megan's mom uses a picture of her running on that spot of trail as her screen-saver. And most importantly for what was about to happen, it was the top of the mountain. No need to go further, it's downhill back to the car and there isn't much training stimulus from that. How about we stop here and walk back?

Our rainforest, from October 2012.

The sun came out. Of course it did. The weather is so cliche. She looked even more beautiful in the sunny rainforest. I loved her snot, spit, and sweat as much as her beaming post-run smile.

We waked through the forest, over fresh mud and glistening ferns and orange flowers. We were hand-in-hand, which is rare for us because it is an inefficient way to walk. I was worried that she could feel my heart beat through my palm. Then I looked at her. can I worry about anything when I get to see that smile? How could life ever be stressful when it's spent adventuring with your best friend? All those thoughts, and millions (billions!) more went through my head in an instant. My heart beat slowed, and everything felt perfectly peaceful.

"Megan, you are the most beautiful, the most brilliant, and the most badass person I've ever met. The last three years have been the best of my life. I want to spend the rest of my years with you, I want to be there for you through sickness and health, and I want to raise adventure kids with you."

(gets down on one knee, opens strawberry Ring Pop)

"Megan, will you marry me?"



  1. Wonderful story thanks for sharing - we are so happy for you both. Hugs and lots of love, Uncle Jack

  2. Thanks so much Uncle Jack! Your love and support means a ton to both Megan and I :)

  3. Holy crap man... I'm totally choked up! Beautiful and perfect...

  4. Wait. Then what happened? Han Solo got frozen in carbonite?!

    So stoked for you two. Beauty and change indeed!

  5. Tim! Megan is a fan of stream-of-consciousness writing, so I gave myself 45 minutes after a good run to write her a love note. Your support means SO MUCH to both her and I. Like so much. Without knowing it, you helped teach me how to be real and genuine.

  6. Seriously? This is such a beautiful piece of writing. I think I'm in love with her too. Enjoy this time together and know that we all adore you both. Marriage is hard, but rewarding work. It's a constant give and take, ebb and flow and you both sound so ready for it. To find that perfect person is so rare. I am thrilled you both found your soul's counterpart in each other. Many blessings on your lives to come. XOXO Cousin Chrystie

  7. GZ, the screen went to black and "Don't Stop Believin" played.

    It's crazy, right? One cool thing about a blog is it is like a diary with a bunch of pages and really, really embarrassing things nestled near the beginning :) We loved getting to meet you together!

  8. Chrystie, thanks so much for the advice. I always identified with you, and 10 year old me became 25 year old me, so I take everything my cool, awesome cousin says as gospel.

  9. Sweet! All kinds of in a sugary ring - sweet. Suh-weet! - as in awesome! And, sweet - as in touching. Congrats, D.

  10. I could read this a million times! Very cool. You guys rock! You are the perfect match!! On a lessor note I'm glad Megan won't be Ms. Butthead much longer! haha Keep rocking the podium with speed and laughter! Congratulations guys!

  11. Haha Jim. We ate all three Ring Pops on the way back to the car. But I saved the little stub of the original :)

  12. Laura, the best compliment I've ever got on my dog-owning is when my brother met Addie for the first time and she was over-happy and peed all over his feet. After the introduction, with Addie still groveling at his feet, my brother said that she reminded him of Megan and I :) So calling us the perfect match is kind of like that! Thanks so much!

    P.S. We are a contemporary couple. I'll be Mr. Butthead.

  13. Your best post yet. Congrats to both of you.

  14. Congratulations! I can't think of two people more well-suited! I hope Addie is pleased too.

  15. I sensed that life had suddenly gotten awesomer! Now I know why! Congrats, you crazy kids! All the best to you!

    1. Whenever my all-time favorite writer makes up a new word for one of my life events, everything definitely gets a good bit awesomer. Thanks P!

  16. That means a lot Patrick. We love you guys!

  17. Shannon! Addie peed and got wet food for celebration :) You're so awesome! Thanks for everything over the years!

  18. David, you should have done this at the Barr Trail Mountain Race! You could have done a casual run to the top of Pikes Peak and popped the "ring pop" there! Because even pooping at 14,000 ft is euphoric!
    I never did officially meet Megan, but I recall exactly who she is from your descriptions.

    Remember to eat, drink and consume FroYo! Congrats to you both!

  19. Wait, I meant popping at 14,000 feet is euphoric, popping!

  20. Just kidding, I really meant pooping!

  21. A long-time lurker and fellow Duke alum here (Duke Med, but still). Congratulations! My heart grew two sizes reading this.

  22. I am so happy for you two. I love this kind of thing - it's so important, especially in the world we live in today. Felicitations and it was wonderful to see you two randomly around Duke.

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  24. Good stuff. Congrats to both of you!