Building a Community of Runners!
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
"I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can't run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me."
They say running is one of the purest forms of exercise, connecting you with mother nature each step at a time. When we were kids, running around was part of our daily routine. Of course, most of us growing up in the early 2000s didn't have smartphones or tablets to rob us of our attention. Running around on the beach, grass, gravel and dirt helped keep us active. Then, we grew up, and those of us who enjoyed running stuck with it and continued. Some took it up professionally, participating in marathons and competitions. On the other hand, some adopted it for recreational use, general fitness or enjoyment.
However, there were also some who regarded running to be, rather unnecessary. Why run around and expend energy when you can drive, catch a bus, or any other form of transport. Why run when you can hit the gym, do yoga or any other form of exercise? Running became something of a task, rather than an activity. Yet, we marvel at the sight of marathon runners who finish upwards of 40km with ease, regarding it as an unfathomable feat if we're inexperienced.
But is that really the case? Let's find out.
My guests for this episode were Zack McCarty and Nathan Gupta, founders of My First Finish (M1F). M1F is an virtual community for those who are passionate about running. M1F provides its members with customised training plans and a place to share goals, milestones and progress with other people.
After realising the profound impact running had on their lives during high school and college, Zack and Nathan started M1F with the goal to share their passion for running with other people. People who have big dreams and aspirations to run a half marathon, full marathon or even just getting into the habit of running for fitness. The goal is to bring them together and pursue something bigger than what they thought to be impossible for themselves.
I'm pleased to share their story with you through this blog post, and have also provided links to the corresponding podcast and video at the end. Enjoy!
"It was at home one summer break during college, that I was feeling complacent. I felt like I needed a goal, something crazy to do. Without taking a step, I signed up for the next available marathon.
After training for this marathon up until the big day, and then crossing the finish line; that feeling was single-handedly the greatest individual achievement I had ever done. That's what ignited the flame in my life for running.
Think of running as a vehicle for pushing past boundaries. Those of us who're rather inexperienced with consistent running, finishing or even attempting a half or a full marathon can appear to be a daunting task. A different way to approach this is to change the perspective towards running. Taking it one step at a time (quite literally), makes it less overwhelming and more doable.
Another driving factor of having a running-based community is one that involves enjoyment for the activity itself. A common visualisation of 'running' is one that typically includes someone alone, running with their headphones on; to be as stereotypical as possible. However, like many other activities in life, having friends or like-minded individuals to engage with you can make the process more enjoyable while you're at it. It's similar to how you're incentivised to visit the gym with a friend of yours, join a class with someone for the first time. Having someone close eases some of the tension involved with trying and failing, as you can loosen up a bit.
Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash
That's not all. Having a 'running buddy' or someone who joins in with you can also serve as an opportunity to practice accountability. If both of you have scheduled a day to go out for a run, you're less likely to skip it or make an excuse for why you can't make it. In this case, your friend participating in the activity could fuel your own motivation to go do it as well, since you'd feel accountable for scheduling a day. You can also use an app like Strava that will help monitor your progress along with that of others in your running group.
"There's really this fascinating symbiotic relationship we've built between accountability and community. It's easy to view running as an individual journey, but I think where we've been successful is establishing it as a team sport. On Strava, the Instagram of running so to speak; when someone runs faster or puts in more effort; that's noticeable to the rest of us! We're across different states and countries, but we're still a team and maintaining that personal level of communication and teamwork."
After all, what better way to keep on going than to have someone push you when you need to be pushed?
Success often comes with an idea that is based around sustainability. If something is designed to be long-lasting, it has a higher chance of sticking around in the long run; and a lower chance of failing after conception. One of the ways to adopt sustainability with a business, or any idea is to make it engaging for the members. With something like running, having a certain degree of competitiveness into the mix can lighten things up, while also providing the opportunity to hit personal milestones to compete with others. Competition is usually viewed with a negative lens, linked with envy and insecurity. However, healthy competition with positive-minded individuals who help others succeed can in fact, have the opposite effect.
The toxicity in competition comes when we begin to compare our success and progress with that of others. It's important to understand that everyone has their own story, journey and their own personal struggles. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we must look inward and compare ourselves to how we were in the past. If you were able to run 5 miles last week, and managed to hit 7 miles or even 10 miles this week, that's an improvement you should be proud of. It doesn't matter if someone else you know hit 20 miles, you don't know their story. Maybe they just started on this journey before you, and were at the same place you are in right now. Draw inspiration, not comparison and you'll see a profound improvement in your results.
Photo by Candra Winata on Unsplash
Everything happens for a reason
It never ceases to intrigue me when I think about how my life would be, if something in the past didn't go the way it did. I would revisit a particular day or a moment, where I made a decision; and think about alternative paths I could've taken. What would have happened if I had done that? If 2020 was just a regular year with the same life moving along as it did, would I have been able to start this blog and podcast channel? Probably not.
There's an important concept in the philosophy of stoicism known as Amor Fati, which means 'the love of fate'. Amor Fati represents a humbling belief that we are all powerless, that we have no control of whatever happens in our life, that we are all at the mercy of fate. The only thing we are in control of, is our attitude towards whatever happens in our life. Everything happens for a reason. If something bad is bound to happen, it will. No amount of anger or grief will change the outcome. The best approach to take, is to find how you can use it as an opportunity for good. Then you'll see that whatever happened, maybe wasn't so bad after all.
For Zack and Nathan, this came with the organisation of their event 'The Canal Classic', which is a virtual marathon event held by the M1F team in Arizona for their community. The idea to organise The Canal Classic came when the M1F team was preparing to attend the San Francisco marathon with its member base. After months of excitement and preparation, the event was cancelled due to safety and social unrest. But for the team over at M1F, this didn't hinder their goal. It only made it stronger.
"We knew that we can't create this 10,000 person race like these other events, but we could make it custom, and home grown. So I opened Google Maps and went over my normal running route, dropped pins and we drew up a 26-mile course. Over the last few months, we worked with a community member to help out with the UI/UX designing for a logo. We started to bring in vendors, got a dinner scheduled; next thing you know we have this full blown marathon experience. It's a great opportunity for the members of our community who've been training all year for a marathon."
When you have an environment that is filled with positivity, it's not long before sustainability follows suit. M1F has seen a diverse range of individuals sign up on their database, all from different backgrounds and different stories to share. That's the power of having a community of supportive, like-minded individuals. Changing the perception lens from something you have to do, to something you enjoy doing, it makes the process all the more easier. What started off as a group for runners, ended up helping the M1F members make new friends from across the globe, learn about different journeys and achieve milestones together. It's something that goes beyond the conventional way of thinking. Something that taps into our emotions, that makes a difference.
Taking the First Step
At their core, running and starting a business are not too different if you think about it. Rather than looking at the end goal of reaching the finishing line 42km away, or becoming a $1 million valued business, the first step is the most important one. It can be overwhelming to think of the larger end goal, something that often gets most people to quit in the fear of failure. Taking running, entrepreneurship and life one step at a time can offer a less stressful alternative, one that is fuelled by an innate desire to do good, and follow one's true calling.
"Starting a business and running are very similar. You just put one foot in front of the other, do one thing at a time and eventually you go somewhere. For so long I've told myself I wanted to run a business, to start something. It was all about 'just doing it'. Start with a mile, then it becomes 2, then 5, 10, maybe even 26. Just start."
Goals change. As soon as you hit one milestone, the mind seeks another. It's a never ending process, one that is fuelled by ambition and the desire to push further. To sum it up, tie up the laces, take the first step and see where it takes you. If your stride has meaning, you'll come across people with similar goals as yours. Befriend them, support them and scale the obstacle with them. The obstacles in front of us serve one purpose, to test how much we really want something. Face it, embrace it and conquer it.
Now that's....a cocktail for success.
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I offer my sincere gratitude to today's guests: Zack McCarty and Nathan Gupta. Check out:
My First Finish website: www.myfirstfinish.com
M1F's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/myfirstfinish/