Independence, MO – Thanks to a gift from Paul Liebhart, Kate and I enjoyed a spectacular 10-mile run last month in Milwaukee.
We were in the Cream City to celebrate Paul’s 50th birthday. His wife, with whom Kate grew up, had planned a surprise party. We’d flown into Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport for the shindig.
It’s true we wouldn’t have been in Milwaukee were Paul not crossing the half-century mark. But he’s responsible for our spectacular run along Lake Michigan because of a favor he did for me (and Kate) in January 2009, the last time we visited the Liebharts.
As we rushed out the door nearly three years ago for the winter weekend getaway, I threw my running shoes in the suitcase as an afterthought. I’d vowed to renew my running regimen several weeks earlier and had squeezed in two runs over the holiday break. Yet my commitment to a fitter 2009 had given way to the post-holiday workload, and my pair of runs was a fast-fading memory as we boarded the plane.
After dinner at a local restaurant on that January 2009 weekend, we’d chatted for a while in the Liebharts’ living room before turning in. Next to me in bed, Kate read the latest issue of Newsweek. I tried to get into a Clive Cussler novel, but all I could think about was returning to the gym and hitting the treadmill.
“I don’t have time to get back in shape,” I moaned. “Whatever progress I made over the holidays is long gone.”
Kate didn’t respond. Instead, she reached for a “Runner’s World” she’d “borrowed” the previous week from her doctor’s office.
“Here,” she said flatly as she threw the magazine in my lap. “Read this.”
I looked at her in bewilderment and frustration. I couldn’t believe she had the magazine and wasn’t even a little sympathetic.
“I get it,” I said sarcastically. “You want me to read this magazine, get motivated then just go out and run. Is that it?”
She looked me straight in the eye.
“Yeah,” she said. “Start exercising or stop complaining. I’m sick of it.”
She’d drawn a line in the sand.
“When, exactly, am I supposed to get my next run in?” I asked defensively.
“Tomorrow morning,” she shot back.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said. “With a foot of snow on the ground?”
“I’m dead serious,” she said. “You can go to the YMCA with Paul.”
I later learned Kate and Heather had talked privately during the day about Paul’s and my physical fitness moans. They’d secretly plotted to shove us off the next morning to the Y.
Which is precisely what they did. And on a treadmill overlooking the snow-packed parking lot of the Northern Lake YMCA in Waukegan, Ill., I ran. And ran. And ran.
It was the turning point in my running journey.
Today, nearly three years later, I look back with thankfulness and appreciation on that snowy 2009 morning. I’m thankful Kate kicked me in the seat of the pants, and I appreciate Paul digging out his car and taking me to the Y.
I won’t be 50 for a while. But before I cross the half-century line, I hope I can help an aspiring runner like Paul did me.
His gift sealed a habit that will last a lifetime.
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