Thanks, Paul and Heather. Kate and I enjoyed a great 10-mile run last weekend in Milwaukee (see our route at http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/124541709), and it all started three years ago when we last visited you.
We were in the Cream City last weekend to celebrate Paul’s 50th birthday, for which Heather planned a surprise party at Lovells of Lake Forest (http://www.lovellsoflakeforest.com/). Paul was in the dark until he arrived, and the shindig was great fun for those who traveled from near and far to usher in his second half-century.
We flew into Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport, which is closer to the Liebharts’ Illinois home than O’Hare and Midway. It’s true we wouldn’t have been in Milwaukee were it not for Paul’s birthday, but that’s not why we owe the Liebharts credit for our great weekend run.
They’re responsible for last Saturday’s run because of a conversation Kate and I had in their Illinois home in January 2009. That’s the last time we visited Paul and Heather, with whom Kate grew up in Charleston, Mo. While Kate and Heather spent the 2009 weekend catching up on hometown news and hitting area outlet malls, Paul and I swapped business stories and trekked to Chicago’s Abraham Lincoln Book Shop (www.alincolnbookshop.com), one of the country’s best Civil War booksellers.
As an afterthought, I threw my running shoes in the suitcase as we rushed out the door to the airport for our January weekend away. I’d vowed to renew my running regiment several weeks earlier and had managed to squeeze in two runs over the holiday break at the YMCA (http://www.kansascityymca.org/locations/locations-map/independence-family-ymca). 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 and headed for Chicago.
Still, a question echoed in my mind: “You’re going to be 40 in six months and have gained two or three pounds a year since you got married in 1991. Is this what you want to look
like on your 40th birthday?”
I knew the answer. And on that January weekend in 2009, it became clear the only person who could seize it was me.
The conversation with Kate happened on the Friday night of our January weekend at the Liebharts. We’d arrived Thursday evening and on Friday visited the outlet malls and Civil War bookstore. After a great dinner at a local restaurant, we’d chatted for a while in the 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 (http://www.clive-cussler-books.com/), 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 as Kate flipped the magazine page. “Things are crazier than ever at work, and whatever progress I made over the holidays is gone.”
She didn’t respond. She didn’t even look at me.
Instead, she reached for her briefcase. She pulled out a Runner’s World (http://www.runnersworld.com) she’d “borrowed” the previous week from her doctor’s office. (Thanks, Dr. Mertz).
“Here,” she said flatly as she threw the magazine on my lap. “Read this.”
I looked at her, irritated and upset. I couldn’t fathom she 1) had the magazine and 2) wasn’t giving me even a little sympathy.
“Alright,” I said. “I get it. You want me to read this magazine, get motivated then just go out and run. Is that it?”
That’s when she looked at me. Straight in the eye.
“Yeah,” she said. “That’s right. Either start exercising or stop complaining. I’m sick of it.”
Wow, I thought. She’s drawn a line in the sand.
“When, exactly, am I supposed to get my next run in?” I asked sarcastically.
“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 during their day together about Paul’s and my physical fitness moans. They’d plotted to shove us off the next morning to the Y.
Which is exactly what we did. And it turned out to be the pivotal point in my running journey.
The next day, on a treadmill overlooking the snow-packed parking
lot of the Northern Lake YMCA in Waukegan, Ill. (http://www.ymcalakecounty.org/our-y/our-locations/northern-lake), I ran. And ran. And ran.
At the time, my six miles at a 12-minute-per-mile pace seemed like forever.
I resolved then that I would get in at least four runs a week for the next six weeks. The article I’d read the night before in the Runner’s World Kate dropped on my lap said a new runner should run at least three times a week for six weeks to make running a habit. I added an extra run to ensure it stuck.
Today, nearly three years later, I look back on that 2009 day with thankfulness and appreciation. I’m thankful Kate kicked me in the seat of the pants and told me to fish or cut bait. And I appreciate the support of the many people who’ve helped me navigate my running journey.
These days, I’m proud to be a runner. With three half marathons and more 5ks under my belt, I plan to tackle my first 26.2-miler next month.
I won’t be 50 for more than seven years, but I hope I can help an aspiring runner like Paul and Heather did me by the time I cross the half-century line. I’m grateful Paul willingly took me to the YMCA on that snowy morning in 2009 and that Heather conspired with Kate to make it happen.
It sealed a habit that will last a lifetime.
Kansas City Runner