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How a weekly group run ended with a heartwarming proposal

Ben Lui recaps his creative marriage proposal that capped off a weekly group run as he and Keiko Ayuba are now engaged.

West Van Run Proposal
West Van Run Proposal
Shannon Banal Photography.

“I want to skip the run,” Keiko Ayuba said the morning of a weekly meetup with the West Van Run Crew. After some convincing, and 5K later, Ayuba and Ben Lui are engaged.

In late January, the couple travelled to Japan to visit family and Lui initially thought of proposing while overseas. As Lui didn’t quite have a plan in place, he decided to do it later in the month back in West Vancouver. He was, however, inspired by the crowd at the Kagawa Marugame Half-Marathon, a popular road race in Japan, to “recreate that atmosphere” when it came to proposing.

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The group run in West Vancouver on Feb. 25 was determined to be the big day, and, since it’s a weekly routine, the marriage proposal could be kept a surprise until the very end of the run. “I got some signs made and kept them generic at first and the signs got a bit more personal as we went along,” Lui, 39, explains. “Keiko had no idea, she didn’t even clue in when her name was on a sign. Keiko thought the kids were practicing for the race [West Van Run 5K and 10K] the following week when she saw them holding the signs and cheering.”

West Van Run Proposal
Shannon Banal Photography.

As the two approached the end of the pier, Lui dropped back a bit and Keiko passed signs that read “this is not your finish line,” and “it’s only the beginning.” He then popped the question in front of a sizeable crowd. (If you couldn’t tell by the photos, she said yes.)

West Van Run Crew founder Kirill Solovyev helped with the route, photographer Shannon Banal coordinated the signs and execution and videographer Olga Zwart captured footage. (Video can be found towards the bottom of this page.) “I really couldn’t have pulled it off without the help of everyone that day, but especially these three,” he explains.

Gallery (toggle left/right to scroll through photos)

Lui carried the ring for the whole run with an added element of danger near the end as the proposal took place on Ambleside Pier. Wooden planks with gaps made any drop a potential disaster. The couple met two years ago at a group run and friends from the sport are a “big part” of their lives. A proposal which incorporated running was a good fit.

RELATED: Exciting finish at West Van Run 5K as top two clock identical times.

According to Banal, the photographer, Lui was “was bemoaning that he’d forgotten to stop his Garmin during the proposal” in what sounds like a classic runner’s line. (He did stop his watch, for the record.)

“She’s still in a bit of disbelief on how we planned it all out,” he says 10 days after the big day. “She’s been asking ‘did you really propose?'”

Video (courtesy Olga Zwart)

The two have chatted about the wedding only at a “high level” but a 2018 date has been mentioned in conversation.