Long before I was a business owner, I was a runner. Before I laid out quarterly objectives (shoutout OKRs), I laid out quarterly training plans. Before I woke up at 4:45 to check Slack, I woke up at 4:45 to lace my Brooks and log miles around Davidson and its neighboring towns. Before I had trips planned six months in advance to buy coffee and meet farmers, I had trips planned six months in advance to run destination marathons. Before I cupped coffee all day to zero in on what our next day’s brew would taste like, I sampled Gatorade ratios to zero in on the appropriate taste balance for my run.
Since 2004 or thereabouts, I had real aspirations of qualifying for the Boston Marathon as a runner. And three times I missed the Boston Marathon qualification standard by fewer than three minutes. Yes as my mid-20s turned to my mid-30s (well, almost mid-30s), mornings on Slack and pursuing my OKRs hurt a lot less than mornings pounding an aging Achilles down Concord Road.
So, just like everything else, paths set forth by running have given way to paths better suited for business. No, I did not run 26.2 miles in under 3 hours, 5 minutes, as mandated by the Boston Athletic Association. But yes, I am attending the Boston Marathon this April — on behalf of Summit Coffee and in partnership with Runner’s World magazine and Hearst Media. Not as a runner, though. This is the story of why I am, evidently, better at entrepreneurship than I am at running.
In the fall, I got wind (aka I read a Tweet) that Runner’s World was searching for “coffee companies owned by runners,” to be highlighted in a magazine feature on the small intersection of maniacal people who like to lose sleep both for work and for running. That’s me! I dug into my journalism background, found the author and his email and introduced Summit, myself, and a staff of at least eight other marathoners. A conversation led to an interview led to a feature led to the aforementioned writer describing Summit’s Koke as the “best cup of coffee I’ve ever made.”
Evan, also a marathon runner and coffee businessperson (we need a name for us), said something in passing about Summit partnering with Runner’s World — in part because Evan’s wife, Adrienne, had qualified for the Boston Marathon. From that something in passing, a marketing idea developed, one thing led very quickly to another and without a chance to think twice, Summit had agreed to host a pop-up cafe in Boston for six days.
Say what? What business do we have, from 838 miles to the south (slightly southwest), opening a cafe in Boston? What business do we have serving 15,000 runners over Boston Marathon weekend? What business do we have hoisting our brand alongside Runner’s World and the multibillion-dollar Hearst Media? What business do we have crafting a marketing strategy to introduce our brand on a very national, even global, stage?
It’s because we’ve made this our business. If you don’t know about us, you should. Our coffee is good, our people are better, and our brand is
Davidson … North Carolina … regional … national … limitless.
The Boston Marathon is a race, to be sure, just as our six day cafe is a business operation. But the Boston Marathon is also a celebration of achievement, a benchmark of success and excellence. And thus, Summit’s presence at the Boston Marathon — pouring coffee, handing out merchandise, marketing all around the city and imploring runners to Find Your Summit — is a celebration of achievement, a benchmark of success and excellence.
I’ve spent my entire adult life aiming for Boston. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on shoes and races, thousands of hours running and dreaming. So, here in 2019, I make my Boston Debut. It took me 17 failed marathons to realize that dream. No doubt about it – I qualified for the Boston Marathon. Summit qualified for the Boston Marathon. We can’t wait to share the weekend with everyone else celebrating their accomplishments and preparing to be great for another 26.2. We’ll see you there, and as our old Summit racing shirts used to say, “See you on top.”