The birth of Long Run Coffee
By Henry Howard
Thomas McGinn has combined his two passions — running and coffee — into Long Run Coffee. The unique drink infuses electrolytes aimed improving hydration and water absorption.
He hasn’t always been enamored with running. In fact, in high school, he loathed cross-country. “It just wasn’t clicking for me.”
Prodded by a cousin, McGinn set out to run a 5K at Walt Disney World while in college. But when they went to register, the 5K was sold out. Same for the 10K. The only distance available was the marathon.
“That was really the first point at which we started real running on our own because we wanted to,” says McGinn, an actuary who lives in Chicago.
That marathon training fueled his love of running. His passion for coffee goes back even further.
“Running became a really intense passion, like a burning passion, to a point that I wanted to do more with the sport beyond simply running,” he says. “Running is great and I do it every day and I will continue to do it every day, but I wanted to be more involved with it, to a point at which I can try to make it my life a little bit further. That's the philosophy of where Long Run Coffee comes from. But the actual manifestation of why coffee is that I love coffee, and I love running. Let's not overthink it. That's it.”
An extension of his running
McGinn received an actuarial science and finance degree from the University of Wisconsin. Not exactly the launching pad to entrepreneurship.
“It has nothing to do with being an entrepreneur, business, a startup, anything like that,” he admits. “I didn't go to school and say, ‘I want to start a business.’ In fact, I would've told you no way in hell I'm starting a business. There's no way I'm doing that. Why would anyone do that? And the answer isn't something that I really found until just this year. You start a business around something you really care about, something you're really passionate about.”
(I am pleased to announce that there is now a RunSpirited version of Long Run Coffee. When you purchase coffee from this page, you are not only getting a quality product, you are helping to support RunSpirited. Thank you for considering.)
For McGinn, Long Run Coffee is an extension of his running, rather than a business.
“I don't think of myself as an entrepreneur in any regard really,” he says. “I don't really think of Long Run Coffee as a business either. I just think of it as an extension of me wanting to be more involved with running. I don't have to sit down and think about a business plan. It put myself and my passion into work and so that's where it came from.”
McGinn can pinpoint the moment when he landed on the concept for Long Run Coffee. He was visiting his parents in Brookfield, Wis., where he grew up.
“I love salt and I love coffee,” he says. “Endurance athletes know what salt is, that it's an electrolyte, why it's important, what we use it for, especially when you're doing endurance sport training.”
With a cup of coffee in one hand and salt in the other, McGinn combined the two.
“It was one of those organic moments. And that was it in terms of the actual product.”
Trust the process
The moment was the crescendo, following months of McGinn digging deeper and deeper into his beloved sport. He thought about running. Listened to running podcasts. Read about running.
“It was consuming who I am and there needed to be some form of outlet that is beyond just going outside and doing a run, because it didn’t seem to be cutting it at that point,” he reveals. “Then when that product moment came up, where I could create a type of coffee for endurance athletes, that was when it really all got put into action.”
With the general concept in mind, McGinn needed to focus on what would work in a business model. An immediate challenge was finding the right balance, taking into account the wide variety of coffees, personal palettes and how the salty mix comes across.
“From the very beginning, it was very much a process of, what can we make work for most people, most runners really?” he says. “And we started with one degree of sodium and then we upped it, then you lower it, then you up it and you just try to find that middle ground. The reviews are positive. I think we have a final version here.”
For his tastes, McGinn says he is not a coffee snob. He chooses a variety of flavors, though he can taste the difference in quality. For his product line, he narrowed it to light, medium and dark roasts, along with a decaffeinated version. There also is a banana blend.
So, which is his favorite?
“It's a good question,” he says. “Even before starting the coffee business, dark roast through and through, was my favorite. And then we started product testing. I still would've told you the dark roast is my favorite. But then over time, the light roast really started creeping in. So it went from dark being the favorite to light being the second favorite. Maybe meet in the middle and go with a medium, but now I'm just full blown in the light roast category. That's my favorite now.”
A common question customers ask McGinn is when they should drink the coffee. His recommendation is to treat it like your regular coffee.
“This is your morning coffee that is for runners and just happens to have electrolytes in it,” he explains. “It's just a normal cup of coffee. Most people drink it in the morning. It's much less a supplement and more of a coffee with an added benefit for runners.”
Looking into the future, McGinn is content to provide a service that combines his two passions.
“When I see you with RunSpirited, I think you would agree that it's not for money,” he says. “However, if someone told me this could make enough money for me to do it full-time and I can make my passion my life, I would be all for it. That would be the ultimate goal. Not because of money, just because I would get to spend my time doing what I love. But there is a price tag to that. So success for me would really be reaching enough people, having enough people enjoy it, and simply growing a community around like-minded people who like the product.”
Name: Thomas McGinn
Hometown: Brookfield, Wis. (Now Chicago)
Number of years running: Six
How many miles a week do you typically run: “It depends. Anywhere from 0 to 80. I'm hanging out around 40 miles/week right now for the Chicago Marathon.”
Point of pride: Long Run Coffee founder and 50-mile ultra
Favorite race distance: “I really enjoyed the 50-miler I did. What's interesting is I've actually only done two organized races, and they were both the Disney marathon. I usually set myself a goal, and just run it myself unsupported. As I grow my involvement in the running community and meet more people/race directors, that may change.”
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: “Coffee of course. But I also really like oatmeal. After an event or goal race I'm a fan of beer.”
Favorite piece of gear: My Garmin forerunner 745
Who inspires you: :My cousin and her spouse. Annie Wiess and Brian Frain. Together they've taken down FKTs, written books and made their lives about running.”
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: “I listen to different music throughout the year! Country music in the summer and alternative in the winter.”
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: "Everything is training." I think about this a lot actually. I try to approach everything in life the same way I train for ultras. Small amounts every day compound in a big way. Nothing can be accomplished in a day. Small changes over a large period of time is the best way to succeed. This applies to running, saving money, implementing a healthy diet, studying, etc.
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• TikTok: @longruncoffee
• Instagram: @longruncoffee
• Web: longruncoffee.com
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Phone: 262-951-0040