Remember when Strava art was mostly shakily-drawn crude finger gestures and alarming penis renditions? Well, in recent months, the GPS-fueled mapping app for fitness fans has run a long way, baby, and turned into a clash of artistic titans.
Competition heated up a few weeks ago when San Francisco running enthusiast, Lenny Maughan drew Frida Kahlo’s face during a 29-mile run. The final result—complete with earrings and unibrow—wowed everyone who saw it.
Then this week, another masterful, art-inspired run emerged, in the form of a Strava rendition of 17th-century painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. When one fan saw it on Reddit and commented “Lenny! You are the man, the myth and the legend,” I decided it was time to track him down and talk inspiration.
Lenny, it turns out, is a technology analyst by day, and has been treating the city like a canvas since March 2015, when he first drew a hand in the shape of Star Trek‘s “live long and prosper” salute. (A solid lesson in how to draw hands on Strava without the inclusion of obscene gestures.) Since then, he’s tackled everything from impressive animals (including a whale, pig and cat); fun food items (avocado, taco and coffee) and states (like California and Texas).
“I’ve been a runner all my adult life,” Lenny told me. “I just like to run. There’s so much diversity in the running paths and the scenic vistas [of San Francisco]. It’s not really about speed or distance. It’s not about the miles, or the elevation. Frida is my magnum opus!”
“But what about your most recent work? The Girl with a Pearl Earring?” I asked.
“Wait. No,” Lenny replied, confused.
“This!” I insisted.
“That’s not me,” Lenny said, gazing upon the girl’s orange visage. “But I like his style!”
On closer inspection, and after a side-by-side with Lenny’s Frida, I realized the homage to the Johannes Vermeer classic was a totally different style—curvier and tighter in scale. (Lenny notes that he likes to “go big to make a shape fit the contours and constraints of the streets.”) I immediately needed to track down this second human Etch A Sketch.
The artiste this time turned out to be 27-year-old Sunset resident Luke Rosenberger, an elementary-school teacher who also serves and bartends “because it’s SF and I have rent to pay.” Does Luke ever sleep? Probably not, given that just a week before he spent 31 miles recreating Girl with a Pearl Earring, he made a 28-mile dragon. Luke’s prior creations also include a de-corked champagne bottle in celebration of his girlfriend’s college graduation, and a massive teddy bear stretching from the Mission to the Presidio.
“My ability to run long distances gives me access to a special kind of pencil,” Luke told me. “I have always had a love for drawing and painting my whole life. Combining my creative outlet with the joy I get from running was a no-brainer. Moving to San Francisco four years ago turned my like of running into love. There are so many notable landmarks and great green spaces one can see during a single run.”
After speaking to both Lenny and Luke separately, I quickly realized just how much the two have in common. Not only do they share a similar skill-level when it comes to both art and running, they both named the Marin Headlands as a favorite running destination, and both confessed to enjoying the “hours” they spend planning their meticulous Strava maps.
When I shared this news with Lenny, he said, “I’d like to meet him! Maybe we could collaborate!”
Delightfully, Luke shared Lenny’s enthusiasm. “I would love to work on something with Lenny in the future!” he said. “I have a couple ideas that would combine San Francisco with the East Bay that could look pretty cool.”
Pretty cool, Luke? Epic, more like. Please make this happen, fellas. We’ll be right behind you! (Most likely in a car.)