Your 5-Part Secret Formula for Building a Vibrant Tribe or Completing the Boston Marathon

Nothing could have prepared me for the Boston Marathon.

Although this was Kory’s and my first time at the Boston Marathon, I’ve completed four others and Kory has completed five. In the marathon world, we are beginners. I’ve been a beginner throughout my short running career.

I’d never run more than a quarter mile prior to 2010, when I was 39 years old. That was the year I learned about a free podcast called “5K101.” The pitch was if I listened to each podcast three times a week, ran when he said to run, and walked when he told me to rest, I could learn to run 5 km (3.1 miles) within eight weeks.

I was always the fat kid in school. Over the years, prior to 2010, I’d lost 30 pounds but was still heavier than my ideal weight. I’d done weight training, interval training, and boot-camp-style programs without hitting my goals. Cardio training was always hard. I hoped running could help me burn extra calories and build my cardio fitness.

The first week of the podcast, after a warm-up walk, I was instructed to complete a two-minute run and then a three-minute recovery walk. I had to repeat that three times to complete the program. After the first two minutes of running, I thought I was going to exhale a lung. It was so hard. I caught my breath during the walk. Then I ran for another two minutes, walked, then did it again. The feeling of accomplishment afterward was rewarding, but I was so sore that night and for two days after that!

Still, I kept with the program. Within eight weeks, I’d completed my first 5K race. Something I would have never dreamed I could do. An amazing experience.

In the years since, my kids have been inspired by my running and each used the podcast to learn to run themselves. I’ve also inspired many of my friends to begin running. I guess they figured that if I could do it — going from sitting around, reading books to running — they had no excuse. And, I’m happy to report I lost another 20 pounds for my efforts. (I still have 20 I’d like to lose, but that’s another story.)

Once I had some experience, my wife and I joined a running club. They have supplied us with practical information, such as what type of running shoes to buy. I never knew this before, but your shoes can make a huge difference. I thought I had to stop running because my knees were sore, then someone in the club gave me a tip. I bought new shoes and my knees were fine. Similarly, my wife had shin splints, then a member of the club directed her to get the proper shoes. Her shin splints disappeared.

In addition to the practical knowledge, the running club has welcomed us into a culture that celebrates fitness and running. I learned there are many people who start (or return to) running mid-life. I met runners who were training for longer distances like marathons or even triathlons.

Initially, running a marathon was the furthest thing from my mind. I thought it was for other people, and I didn’t care about it at all. But then I talked to some of the other runners and discovered that a few of the ones I was beating in the 5K races were completing marathons. I figured if they could do it, I could do it. And besides, with all that marathon training, I could drink more beer without gaining weight.

I decided I’d train up for a marathon and complete it; that way, I could always say I’d done it. The first year I trained, I got injured before the race and couldn’t compete. On my second attempt, my wife decided to join me. She completed the marathon with me. And interestingly, she completed the marathon within a couple of minutes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Suddenly we were going from “one marathon and done” to a two-year odyssey that led us to April 18, 2016.

Kory hired a coach to give her a training program, and a few months later, she ran a marathon and was more than 10 minutes faster than before. A tremendous accomplishment that qualified her for the Boston Marathon. For me, rather than qualifying, I raised money for charity — the charity I chose to work with was Cops for Kids With Cancer — you can learn more by visiting

All of these contributors brought us to the Boston Marathon, and they brought us there a whole lot faster than we could have brought ourselves, had we been doing it all on our own. In reality, we’d never have gotten there on our own. It was the system that Running Mate’s 5K101 got us started running. Then the community of runners that made us recognize it was possible and perhaps even fun for us to give this a try. And finally, a coach who was able to speed up the learning process and help us avoid pitfalls like overtraining, allowing us to complete the marathon safely. This is the support system that made this achievement possible.

The Boston Marathon starts about 24 miles away from Boston in a little town called Hopkinton. The course winds through several small towns, many of which are almost as old as the city of Boston itself. The history of the small towns is amazing to learn about, but what’s important here is that each of these small towns stakes their civic pride on turning out for the Boston Marathon. Each town competes with the others to blast music, scream louder, and ring more cowbells as marathon participants run past. Kids and adults are lined up for miles with encouraging signs, oranges, and popsicles for nourishment and hands extended to give you high fives. More than 500,000 spectators turn out to cheer on runners. They want nothing but to inspire you to the finish.

Although Kory and I were running at an easy pace, in the low humidity, I didn’t realize how much I was sweating. I let myself get dehydrated, and just over halfway through the race, I was toast. I had no energy left and couldn’t catch my breath. I let Kory go ahead. I kept moving while I tried to rehydrate myself but a lot slower. (It wasn’t until after the race, when I looked at the salt on my clothes, that I realized I’d let myself get dehydrated. I’m accustomed to running in a humid climate, so in a dry environment, I missed the signs that I was sweating out.)

I kept plodding ahead. I enjoyed the crowds, and they got larger as I approached Boston.

At mile 21, I reached Heartbreak Hill. It’s tough, and it comes late in the race when your body is really hurting. I’d recovered from the dehydration, but the hours and miles were starting to take their toll. I was having a hard time getting to the top when I caught up with a survivor from the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. She was a double amputee running the marathon with two prosthetic legs. As I passed her, I could see the pain on her face. I had no excuses. I reached the top of Heartbreak Hill and continued to the finish.

As we entered Boston, the crowds got even larger. About a mile from the finish line, the course passed Fenway Park. A game had ended before I passed, and thousands of baseball fans were lined up, cheering on us runners. But as unbelievable as it was, nothing prepared me for the finish.

The last turn was about a half mile away from the end. I could see the finish line up ahead. Spectators were lined ten deep on either side of the course, cheering, screaming, and ringing bells. The roar from the crowd made me forget about how badly my legs and feet hurt. Their encouragement practically lifted me up and carried me. After 26 miles, I wanted to get across that finish line as quickly as possible, and at the same time, I wanted those moments to last forever. I’ll remember those minutes for the rest of my life.

I’ll also remember the shower, the dinner, and the beer. An interesting aside, Sam Adams brews a special beer for the race called “26.2.” It’s only available in Boston around the time of the marathon, and it’s only on tap at select bars. It’s positioned as a “recovery beer.” Works for me. Beer has never tasted so good. I slept well that night.

I know you don’t just read this newsletter for my stories — you want an opportunity to think differently about your own business and membership program. Let me remind you about the five reasons members keep your membership: ROI, community, recognition, contribution, and mission. Looking back, it’s obvious these are the reasons I stuck with training, entering, and completing the Boston Marathon.

ROI – As a lifelong couch potato, I needed a system for learning to run. As I grew, I needed to learn about the proper shoes (equipment), and take on a training program that would make me a stronger runner without overtraining and hurting myself.

Community – Running a marathon sounded like a crazy idea. I don’t like driving 26 miles, much less running it. Engaging in a running club surrounded me with people who helped me change my mindset. Not because they told me I needed a new mindset, but because I could see how they thought, lived, and succeeded.

Recognition – While the recognition from the cheering crowds along the course was amazing, what really got me there were all the small accomplishments along the way: My first 5K; completing a 5K together with my family; training with my family in California; running with my family in Central Park, New York; completing my first 10K race having to walk; then completing it the next year without walking. Each of these incremental goals, victories, medals, and photos made me believe I could do this.

Contribution – When I began to run and lose weight, people around me took notice. They’d ask me how I lost the weight, and I told them. There are 10 people that I know of who started running as a result of my story. Even though I was just a rank beginner, I was able to contribute my story and experience to others who always wanted to run but never knew a system to begin.

 Mission – I didn’t run because I wanted to run; I ran to improve my life, spend time with my wife, and to inspire my family toward taking better care of their health. I run to be healthy, and because I can drink beer and wine without guilt.

If these five elements could get a couch-bound book worm to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, what could they do for your members? How big could your membership program be if you were able to help your members complete Boston Marathon-sized goals within your membership program? As large as you wanted it to grow! How can you incorporate more of these elements into your membership program?

The problem with membership programs is that members quit. I can come alongside you and your team to help you build a membership program engages members and stops them from quitting. Not all of them, but enough to cause your program to grow. It all starts with a membership program growth assessment. From there you’ll receive a comprehensive membership growth plan. After you receive your plan, you can choose whether or not having my help implementing it would be helpful to you and your team. Schedule your assessment today. Visit

About Robert Skrob

The problem with subscription membership programs is that members quit, I fix that problem. For more than 20-years I have specialized in direct response marketing for member recruitment, retention and ascension in diverse subscription members environments including non-profit associations, for-profit publishers/coaching, subscriptions and SAAS companies. For an evaluation of your current churn rate and how I can improve it, contact me here. I discover there are often two or three quick wins you can implement within a week to lower churn immediately, let’s talk about your quick wins.
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