M1F Year in Review

A silver lining of 2020

Morning Finishers,

2020 will go down as one of the historic years of our lives, and in 3 days, it will be over. That’s nuts to me. This year felt never-ending in March, and today it feels like it just barely started. When I look back at everything that went on; the pandemic, the protests, the election; it feels a little unreal that it all happened in 365 days. When I stop and think about that for a second, all I can really say is, “Wow…what a year.”

We made a little history ourselves this year too though. Just as gyms started closing, we got people to start running. Amidst all of the chaos of panic that 2020 evoked, My First Finish was born with the hope of helping people overcome their stress in pursuit of doing something hard.

We did some cool stuff in our first year, and today, I’d like to revisit some of it. For those that joined the party late, or the nostalgics in the group, I’d like to tell the story of what happened this year, what we learned from it, and where we’d like to go in the future. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

What happened this year?

1. We started a business

The idea of My First Finish wasn’t born in a day. It didn’t come to me in a dream or a Jimmy Neutron style brain-blast. My desire to help others run came from realizing the benefits of running myself. Completing my first marathon completely changed my life, and shattered my perception of what is “possible” vs “impossible.” After that first marathon, I kept running, and through that journey developed a deep passion for helping others unlock this new perspective or “superpower” as I like to call it.

So this year, as the COVID situation worsened and my free-time increased, I made the decision to take this passion and “run with it” 😉 I put out this survey in April on my social media to see who might be interested in and idea I had to help people train for a marathon. I got 16 responses.

After realizing that more than 2 people in the world might actually be interested in training, I knew I had to at least give the idea a chance. I build a simple product that would help me track runners, plugged it into Strava, and purchased the domain www.myfirstmarathonfinish.com. Just like that, I had a business, and on April 21, people actually started running.

2. We created a community

After 8 months of existence, the My First Finish community has grown to 68 members across 22 different states 9 countries across the world.

It’s amazing what happens when you bring people together that share a similar passion or goal. We gain inspiration from others accomplishing the things that we’d like to. We are held accountable when we see our peers putting in effort when we aren’t. Regardless of race, background, personality, or social status we can all come together over the fact that running kind of sucks but feels good when we do it 😇

What’s really cool though? We’re almost entirely virtual. Friendships were built between people that never met in person. Through happy hours, cooking classes, slack threads, and Strava kudos; deep human connection sunk in.

This community is not something I saw coming, but one that I couldn’t be more grateful for. It’s been incredible to watch the group start as complete strangers, and morph into a tribe. People truly care about each other, and given the year we just experienced, we really needed that.

3. We hosted events

Anyone that runs can admit that doing the same route every day can get pretty old. We train each day in pursuit of an outcome: a marathon race, losing weight, better mental health, etc; but the act of training itself can get a little boring.

In an effort to keep things fresh and fun, we put together a few events this year that turned out to be a pretty great time 😎

  1. The Beer Mile

Due to most restaurants/bars being closed this July 4th, we decided to try out a new tradition to celebrate our independence.

This tradition entails the consumption of 4 ice cold brewskis over the span of running 1 mile. After each 1/4 of a mile, you finish the beer and then continue on running. Sounds easy right?

Absolutely not. As a group, we quickly realized that while drinking 4 beers isn’t overly challenging, and running 1 mile isn’t that bad, trying to do both at the same time is no task to mess around with.

Regardless, it was a blast, and a tradition we look to continue on for many Fourth of Julys to come.

  1. Melted Marathon

In the heat of summer, we organized a virtual relay race that required 3-4 people to run a full marathon (26.2 miles) combined. So whether you wanted to run 2 miles, or bust out a half marathon, every mile ran contributed to the team.

This was the first virtual event we put on and a really fun way for different members to interact with one another. Each team had to come up with a funny name & team photo and we presented them all at the final awards ceremony. We even received a sponsorship from a company called Yasso for free ice cream bars!

  1. Canal Classic

You could say that his event was the “Super Bowl” of My First Finish.

The pandemic canceled just about every major marathon race in the US this year. As a group of people training hard to run a marathon, you can imagine how this created a problem.

After being disappointed enough times by race cancelations, we decided to take matters into our own hands and create our own race. We felt that people deserved the opportunity to accomplish their goals they’d work so hard for this year. While we couldn’t guarantee the same experience as a 25,000 person marathon event, we felt confident that with enough planning we could come up with something more intimate and special.

And that we did…

On December 5th we hosted the first-ever Arizona Canal Classic. 27 runners showed up to race in person, and 4 participated virtually. Family and friends came out to support. Curious civilians stopped to see what was going on. As each runner crossed the finish line, everyone standing by roared with excitement, creating this overwhelmingly positive energy that could be felt for miles. It was a massive celebration of people achieving their dreams, and it could not have been a better day.

4. We started a movement

My First Finish originated as a project to help a few people run. Truthfully, that was it.

However, the people within this group continue to inspire others with their stories. Our motto: “You can do hard things” is resonating with more and more people. Friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers are becoming curious about this acronym “M1F” I keep talking about. I believe we started a movement and its gaining momentum every day 👊🏼

In just 8 months, 58 members of M1F logged a total of 16,074 miles ran. Among those, 33 people ran more than 100 miles this year, and 11 more than 500 miles.

Our brand truly came to life this year as well. Our initial logo was found from a quick google search of the term “finish line.” Before we could create a REAL logo, we wanted to first figure out what exactly My First Finish was and what we thought it could be. As we interacted with the community, we noticed that people started referring to the group as “M1F” as opposed to “My First Finish.” Once this acronym was introduced, the lightbulb for the logo went off.

We were featured on a podcast too! A good friend heard about the concept of My First Finish and wanted to feature it on his show: The Modern Z that highlights inspiring initiatives of young people. We had a blast telling the story of M1F, and of some individual members within the group.

What’s really driving the engine of this movement however is the fact that people are actually finishing marathons. We’ve seen 15 people this year finish a half or full marathon with us. That’s 15 people that did something they once thought was impossible.

People are noticing what’s going on here. They see their friends, who were never runners before, crossing the finish line of a marathon. They’re imagining a world where they can do the same. Our job is to get them to actually try 😇

Silver Linings

Here is the major lesson that all of these things taught me this year:

When things are at their worst, find the silver linings and throw yourself at them.

2020 will not go down as the worst year in my life, but instead as one of the best. Did bad things happen? Definitely. Do I choose to focus on those? No.

This year I was given the opportunity to share my passion in a way I never have before. I was blessed with new friendships with people I never would have met, and given the opportunity to help them change their lives. I had fun, found new ways to pass the time, and made memories I’ll cherish forever. This year rocked my world in all the best ways and as I reflect on the year behind me, I choose to be grateful for it. I hope you can do the same.

Thank you

To end this final Monday Mug Thoughts of 2020, I just want to say thank you to everyone that was a part of this journey with us this year.

First, thank you to my partner Nathan Gupta for helping build M1F with me. I’m inspired not only by your intelligence and aptitude but also by your compassion and selflessness. I cherish the opportunity to work with you, and can’t wait to keep doing it in 2021.

Second, thank you to the M1F community. I appreciate so much you all for your support, trust, and belief in me and this group. The relationships we’ve built this year are the greatest gift I could have ever asked for, and I want you all to know how much you mean to me.

Third, thank you to those of you that read this email each week. I can concede that I’m not the greatest writer in the world and also that I never will be. I appreciate your interest in our community and for allowing me to share a little about it each week. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Finally, thank you to my friends, family, girlfriend, colleagues, and anyone else cheering for M1F out there. Our progress is thanks to your continued motivation and support. Working full time and also building this has been a ton of work, but knowing that we’re making a difference in the world makes it 100% worth it.

until next year ladies and gentlemen…

(peep new shirt from my super incredible amazing girlfriend Kay 😘)

Cheers,

Zack


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