Race to the Altar: A Running Love Story

Jeff and Lucia Smith have brought a new meaning to online dating. While some rely on companies matching them up, this couple met on Active's trainer site in 2012.

Jeff lived in South Carolina. Lucia lived in California, but when Lucia joined Jeff's online running group, Presque Isle Runners, they started sending each other encouraging messages.

"You could tell by the high-fiving and commenting on each other's posts on Active that there was a potential budding relationship," says Paul Wimbert, a member of the running club and Jeff's best man. "Even though they hadn't met, we could tell it was bound to be a relationship down the road."

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They met for the first time in 2013, when Jeff had a business trip to Los Angeles. Naturally, they decided to run in a race together. By the end of the 10K race in Fremont, Calif., Jeff had convinced Lucia to move to South Carolina.

"He should be a salesman. He is good at selling his city," says Lucia, who is originally from Romania. "He told me what a nice place it was, and that it was flat. When I got here, it was very humid—and not flat."

Lucia moved to Chapin, S.C., and their friendship quickly turned into a relationship. They started to go on runs together, to movies and dinner dates.

A few months later, in 2014, Jeff and Lucia were in Santa Rosa, Calif., getting ready to run a marathon together when an earthquake hit. Scared, Lucia stumbled toward the doorframe to brace herself for the shake.

Jeff got down on one knee and spontaneously proposed.

"It just seemed like the right moment to do it," Jeff says.

Lucia was shocked, but promptly said "yes." The couple celebrated by running the marathon together.

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On May 1, Jeff and Lucia ran to the altar with friends and family, wearing tuxedo and wedding gown T-shirts. After shuffling through the Little Kings Mile in Cincinnati, Jeff changed into his tux and Lucia into her gown. After the medal presentation, the couple married in front of everyone.

"It was a true wedding with a little running," Paul says.

Lucia walked down the aisle escorted by the founder of the online running club, Rod Bailey, and Jeff's father. Another friend from the group, Sandra Viens, officiated. She says the marathon was the perfect venue, as the couple built their relationship on running.

"It's not everyday you meet someone that you can run next to for 26.2 miles at a time," Viens says.

On May 10, the couple celebrated their "runeymoon" by running the Flying Pigs Marathon in Cincinnati. Lucia says it was their first run as husband and wife. They ran the race for the third time with the club, who Paul says has become more like a family, than just a running group. Paul, who lives in West Nyack, N.Y., credits Active with bringing all of them together.

"We are from all over the country and some internationally. If it [weren't] for Active, we wouldn't have ever gotten to know each other," he says. "We now consider ourselves a family, our own running family."

Jeff and Lucia say they plan to celebrate every anniversary, or "runiversary," at the Flying Pigs Marathon. They will run, and afterward, have a cake with their running family.

What does the best man think about their future?

"Definitely a relationship that is going to go the distance."

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