In 1998, I decided to get back into running, so I grabbed my old Nike running shoes and hit the road. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to develop some aches and pain. Not the kind that you can just brush off, mind you. The kind that threatened to stop my comeback dead in its tracks.
When I walked into Jeff Milliman’s store that March, it wasn’t to buy shoes. It was to get advice on how to get rid of the sharp pain that burned out of the side of my right knee every time I passed the six mile mark.
Jeff listened to my problem and smiled. He had me take off my shoes and roll up my pants. He watched me walk around his store. And then he gave me a pair of shoes.
“Here. Try these,” he said.
“You mean like… here?”
“No, I mean take them home. Run in them for a couple of weeks. If they work for you, come back and pay for them. If not, we’ll try another shoe.”
Just like that.
Jeff had never met me before. He didn’t know my name. If I had gone home that day with those shoes and never came back, he would have had no way to find me.
He took a big chance, trusting a complete stranger.
But ultimately, it paid off.
The shoes fixed the problem, and my ITBS quickly went away.
Two pairs of shoes later, I ran my first marathon.
Four more pairs, and I completed my first Ironman.
Add the shorts, the shirts, the energy drinks, the gels, the bars, the race belt, the hats, the sunglasses, the bodyglide, the socks, the decals, and you’ll get an idea of of how well Jeff’s gamble paid off.
That doesn’t take into account the dozens of people I sent his way over the years.
It doesn’t count the free publicity he got from my triathlon club’s website and newsletter.
Yeah, it paid off nicely.
The point is that I didn’t go into his store to buy shoes, but I walked out with a pair anyway.