The Final Mug Thought

A somber announcement, lessons learned, and so much to be grateful for

Good Morning Finishers,

I don’t know how to eloquently say what I’m about to say…

I’ve typed it out 7 times now and each time I’ve deleted it because of how much I don’t want to put it out into reality. It’s for the best that I say it though, so here it goes:

We are ending the operation of My First Finish

It comes with a very heavy heart that I deliver this news to you. This decision is something that both my co-founder Nathan and I have been battling for quite a while now. We love M1F. It’s been our baby for exactly 1 year now. Admitting to ourselves that we couldn’t make M1F happen is extremely sad. Laying it to rest after everything this group has accomplished is even sadder.

I am someone that doesn’t quit things. I don’t give up when things get hard, and I live my life trying to convince others to live the same way. That is why making this decision was so impossible for me. But after several honest and vulnerable conversations with myself, my friends, and Nathan, it became clear to me that this was the decision that needed to be made.

Behind the decision

When we started back in April of 2020, the world was a much different place. We were in the heart of the pandemic, trapped in our homes, with very little to do but go outside for a run. So many people were giving running a shot for the first time ever. With work slowed down, the world closed, and what felt like all the free time in the world, there couldn’t have been a better time to start My First Finish.

And my goodness, it was magical.

Friends I hadn’t talked to in years (including Nathan) re-entered my life with an interest in training. I started to meet new people from across the world that wanted to run with us. We started to build a very tight-knit community of people all looking to accomplish a similar goal: to do hard things. New faces were coming to M1F every week and we realized we were doing something really really cool.

What we failed to think about though is what M1F might look like at scale. We always had this in the back of our minds but were having so much fun in the present that we just assumed we would figure that out as we went along.

As the community grew larger and larger, it required more and more time. Putting in more work doesn’t bother me at all, and frankly, I felt extremely lucky and excited to put in that time because it meant M1F was growing. What I wasn’t taking account of though is the effect this time was having on my own personal life.

To put more time into M1F means spending less time on the other important things in my life. I became very distracted at my full-time job. I forced myself to stay up later, often past 2am, as the late evenings were the only time I had to work on M1F. I stopped prioritizing my own fitness, as waking up early to go train becomes a much harder decision when after a short 5 hours of sleep. I wasn’t prioritizing my time with friends, with my girlfriend, or even my family.

I stopped doing the things that made me, me.

Then life got even busier. Even more things starting to require my time and honestly, I hit a breaking point. I was always tired, grouchy, and like I could never put ALL of myself into anything because I was trying to be EVERYTHING. Without even noticing it at first, putting time into M1F became less of a passion and more of a requirement. I lost sight of my purpose and fulfillment in life.

Excuses? Maybe. Or Maybe Not.

I’m not telling you these things to make excuses. At the end of the day, I truly believe that if you want to make something happen, you can, and you will. Could I work harder to keep M1F going? Yes. But when I think about what that truly means in my life right now, I see a life that doesn’t reflect who I am as a person or who I want to be.

I could always stay up later, spend less time with friends, and put off work at my full-time job in order to grow M1F. I don’t want that though. Frankly, M1F doesn’t deserve that either!

I’ve struggled with making decisions like this in my life, but I’ve realized that stepping away, investing time into myself, and getting back to being me is the only decision that I can really make. Nobody has to agree, but I do hope you can understand where I’m coming from.

The Highlights

Despite M1F coming to a close, the experiences, friendships, and triumphs it helped facilitate lead me to look back on it with a smile.

In one year of “running” M1F, we got to be a part of 67 different running journeys. These people span across 17 states and 6 different countries and combined they traveled more than 20,000 miles on foot.

  • 10 finished their first-ever full marathon

  • 10 finished their first every half-marathon

  • 48 members started running consistently for the first time-ever

In a time filled with darkness and uncertainty, we brought people together in the pursuit of doing hard things. Friendships without borders were forming left and right and despite going through a global pandemic, we all got to feel a part of something good. M1F brought light to a very dark time, and I’ll say that in my own personal life, it completely changed my entire perception of 2020.

We even got to host our very own marathon: The Canal Classic. Despite thousands of marathons across the globe being canceled, we were able to form a community around an event that was completely hand-drawn by M1F. 30 people crossed the ballon-arch finish line that day to a crowd full of friends, family, loved ones, and random passerby’s wondering what was going on.

The biggest highlight of all, at least from me, is the individual victories that didn’t involve a medal or a finish line. These were the personal obstacles people were able to overcome with running. These victories came in many different shapes and sizes, but involve things like:

  • Achieving a new level of fitness and a body to be proud of

  • Finding a new purpose in life with a newfound hobby

  • Overcoming stress/anxiety with an outlet for relief

  • Finding somewhere to belong in a time of loneliness

  • Creating friendships that will last a lifetime

M1F didn’t do this for people, they did it on their own. BUT, the concept & community of My First Finish played a role in helping them get there and that is something I feel really proud to be a part of.

And Finally, Thank You’s

I want to close out this final mug thoughts by saying thank you

First and foremost, thank you to everyone that gave M1F a shot. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of your running journey and how much fun it was to watch you grow and progress in your training. Your investment of time, energy, and trust in us goes further than I can even really express through this email. Running is hard. Like really really hard. I’m proud of every single one of your accepting the challenge, and grateful that it brought you and I closer together in the process.

Some specific finishers I want to thank:

  1. Nathan - My co-founder. I will never forget the phone conversation we shared when you asked to come on board. Building this concept with you over the last year has been the ride of a lifetime and doing it with you made the entire experience so much more valuable. Thank you for pushing me always, calling me out when I came up short, and being there to listen when I needed someone to talk to. While this chapter may be coming to a close, I know that our story has still plenty to be written.

  2. Ashley - My little sister. Thank you for believing in me so much that you committed to being the very first member. Through this entire experience, our relationship has grown so much stronger and seeing you blossom as a runner has been one of the greatest blessings in my life.

  3. Rachel, Sarah, Taryn, Vic, Sydney - You all were the first outside of my family to join M1F. Before it had any hype or momentum, you dove in with me. I know you joined for yourselves, but I also know you joined to support me and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

  4. David - My best friend. You’ve been grinding with M1F since the early beginning, and have transformed into a dominant runner. More than that though, you were always my sounding board and mentor when I came to you with questions, ideas, and frustrations. Thank you for your support, love, and commitment throughout this entire process. I LOVE that running is now a shared passion for us and can’t wait to do more with you long into our future.

  5. Kay - my incredible girlfriend. Thank you for all of your support, as a runner in the community, an unpaid M1F employee, and as a partner. You stood by my side through all the high, lows and everything in between and I seriously could not have done any of it without you.

  6. Vikas & Faith - The Mom and Dad of M1F. You two were the first to actually invest money into M1F and stuck with us all the way through. You both started as complete strangers to me, and today I consider you both two as very close friends. I’ve loved very zoom call, phone chat, text thread and even in-person meetups we’ve been able to share together. I know that we will stay in touch, but truly want you to know how grateful I am for you both.

  7. Colton - My first running friend. You instilled a passion for running in me that ultimately led to starting M1F. Thank you for helping me find running and for all your help with M1F along the way.

  8. Aneesh - Thank you for taking charge on our first event: The Melted Marathon! The success of that even spring-boarded M1F to new height and truly got the ball rolling. Thank you for being so passionate to lead that effort, submitting essays of ideas for us to consider, and honestly just being an amazing dude.

  9. Amanda - Our first international finisher. I still to this day don’t know how you found us, but I’m so grateful that you did. Thank you for allowing M1F into your life and even helping create the BEAUTIFUL Canal Classic logo.

  10. Kevin Ma - Our League of Legends running star. Thank you for spreading the gospel of M1F to your following, and being an advocate of our mission. You brought people from all across the globe to us and also followed through on a challenge that almost no one thought you would complete. I appreciate how much M1F strengthened our relationship and hope you know I’m not going to stop bugging you to run.

  11. Kevin Me - You were ultimately the person that pushed me to get M1F off the ground. If I didn’t know you, none of this would have ever happened. Your encouragement and support gave me, and all of us, something really special and I want you to know that I’m incredibly grateful for that.

Some additional finishers to add onto an already great list (from Nathan):

  1. Aarti - I am so grateful that when we kicked off M1F last April, you were right there from the start. Your candor and ideas are only part of what make you so special, and it was such a thrill for me to see you do multiple marathons last year. Thank you for putting up with my nonsense, and thank you for your constant encouragement and wisdom.

  2. Danny, John & Josh - Being able to run together last summer is something I feel especially lucky for. The pandemic provided the backdrop for a really dark and confusing time and running regularly with “the boys” provided some semblance of consistency that I’d missed since our days with Coach R. And in what was an otherwise virtual running experience, M1F felt more real to me when we would catch up, knock out a run together, and then see the Mr. M’s roll in. I also just missed spending time with ya’ll, and I’m grateful our shared passion brought us together again.

  3. Keshav - Despite being an early (paying) customer, you probably cared more about M1F’s profitability than either Zack or I did. Your friendship and support are indescribable, and I can’t begin to tell you how motivated I left *every single* one of our conversations. I appreciate your belief in M1F and in me, I am SO pumped that you’re a runner. Sharing with you your hard-earned Canal Classic medal is a memory I will never forget.

  4. Zack - While we strove to offer a training plan, accountability and a community, M1F began to represent a mindset for me. This idea that we can live in a way in which we’re constantly challenging ourselves is something I feel unbelievably grateful to have learned from you. I’m going to miss our conversations and geeking out on Zaps in our meetings, but I also feel so freaking lucky we had this journey together. I’m leaving this chapter with tools to be a better teammate, newfound confidence and a true appreciation for the relationships around me, and I owe much of this growth to you.

  5. My newfound “internet” friends - Along this journey of building M1F, what continually struck me was the good people that are around us. From first interacting with Taryn and Ashley on our fun Strava posts to chatting with some of our newest members like Jamie and Chanelle, I am reminded that we are not alone. That’s a powerful takeaway for me, and I’m excited for these relationships to grow. (I know Jack is already thinking of a group for the Boston Marathon.)

    Back to Zack…

There are also several people behind the scenes I want to express my gratitude to:

  1. Eric - The genius behind the M1F logo. For absolutely $0, you took the time to sit down with Nathan and me and go through the process of not just designing a logo, but giving us a badge of honor. I will forever be grateful for the effort you put into it and hope you know how incredible I think you are.

  2. Danny & The NJ Sneaker Factory - Thank you for the several shoe and gear donations you offered up to My First Finish. It was incredibly kind and generous of you to offer us anything, let alone some really sweet SWAG.

  3. Akash and the Modern Z podcast - Thank you for featuring us on your podcast (our first ever) and giving us a space to tell the story of what we were doing.

  4. The Qwick Team - My fellow co-workers. You cheered me on since day one of starting M1F and supported M1F with a very generous donation to make the Canal Classic an experience of a lifetime. I love you guys, appreciate your encouragement so much.

  5. Austin - The man behind M1F social media. Thank you for putting your time and energy into bringing the M1F brand to life and conveying our mission to the outside world. I’m very grateful that M1F brought us together, and for all the (unpaid) time you put into this thing.

Finally, I want to thank everyone that gave this newsletter a read each and every week. I appreciate the attention, consideration, and support all of you have given this email. It was truly a pleasure getting to connect with you through it and hopefully it brought value to in some way throughout the 42 editions that went out.

Closing Thoughts

It has been the greatest pleasure of my life being a part of M1F with you all. Even though the business is winding down, I want you all to know that our mission will never die.

All of you have the power to do hard things. On top of that, all of you are capable of helping others do hard things.

If someone ever utters the phrase, “I could never run a marathon.” I want you to call them out and tell them, “hell yeah you can.” That’s all that M1F ever did. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same.

Everyone is capable of doing hard things. Most of us just need someone to believe in us and tell us we can. I want you all to know how much I believe in each and every one of you. I expect great things from all of you too, because now you know at least a little bit of what you’re capable of.

Thank you all again for sharing this journey with me. Don’t stop grinding. Don’t stop thinking big. As soon as you think you’ve accomplished your biggest goal, think even BIGGER.

for one final time…

Cheers,

Zack