“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

For me, my journey of 26.2 miles at the Chicago Marathon began with a single step, with a total of 47,006 steps according to my watch.

I have written a post about what marathon training can teach you about personal finance. Now having two marathons under my belt, I thought I would do a follow up and write about what running (versus training for) a marathon can teach you about personal finance.

YOUR GENETIC MAKEUP

There are some very gifted runners. These professional athletes are incredibly fast. For instance, at the Expo for this marathon, you could run on a treadmill and see if you could keep up with the reigning marathon record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, for 200 meters. Mind you, all you’re doing is trying to keep up with his marathon pace, the pace that he ran for 26.2 miles (42,195 meters), for a measly 200 meters. This is a staggering 4 minute 38 second minute per mile pace.  Needless to say, every single runner I witnessed was clearly winded and struggling as they attempted to keep up with Kipchoge. If you watch the video, there were plenty of those that couldn’t keep up at all and fell.

So Kipchoge is gifted. Yes, he trains very hard and has developed a regimen to keep his edge. Running races is his job- he can devote 100% of his time and resources to being the best runner he can be. But make no doubt about it, any professional athlete has to combine some natural talent along with hard work to make it to that level.

I am definitely no Kipchoge. I was easily one of the slowest people on my high school track team, many times coming in dead last in my races. But I kept running because I was seeing improvement in my own times, and I loved the camaraderie with my teammates. After high school, I continued running because it was a way for me to de-stress and enjoy the outdoors all at the same time. This has proven invaluable well into adulthood. So despite my natural state of being a slower runner, I was able to turn this into a fulfilling part of my life.

When it comes to finances, some people are savers while others are spenders. How much of this is nature versus nurture? It’s difficult to say, as I have seen siblings from the same family treat money very differently.

Who is more likely to reach their financial goals? Either can reach their goals- the key is to have some goals to begin with. If you’re a big saver, but you’re not investing your money properly and people are constantly hitting you up for money, you’re not going to get ahead. If you’re a big spender, but you are using your money wisely and not living above your means, then you will come out ahead. So in this case, your genetic makeup can be either your strength or your weakness. “Training” your mind and habits properly can make all the difference. Make sure your saving or spending tendencies are a strength rather than a weakness.

PACING

There is a term in running called a negative split. It means that you run the last half of the race faster than the first half of the race. This is desirable because it means that you’re likely enjoying more of the race if you have enough energy towards the end to run faster than you did in the beginning. What happens for most runners is that they start off too quickly (most likely because of all the adrenaline), and they may feel good for about the first half of the race or so. But then there is the dreaded “wall” at anywhere between miles 20-22. If you have not fueled properly, your body runs out of its glycogen stores and you simply cannot hold your pace. You will see many marathoners at this point walking or slowing down considerably.

Pacing yourself when it comes to finances is so important. If you dive headfirst into making financial decisions without thinking them through, then you could very well run into roadblocks or a “wall” that will prevent you from reaching your goals in a timely manner. If you dive into a spending plan without understanding that it will take some time and patience, you may give up before you ever get anywhere. Understanding the basics of personal finance is not difficult, but that doesn’t mean that you can learn everything you need to know over the course of a few hours. So be patient with yourself, and you will no doubt reap many benefits down the line.

SUPPORT

My first marathon had a ton of spectators for the first half of the race. Then it became a ghost town during the second half of the race (this particular race registers many more half marathoners than full marathoners).  I had already made the rookie mistake of going out much too quickly. To feel my energy take a steep dive at a time when it felt like all the spectators left the sidelines was a bad combination. So I then shuffled along the rest of the race in a sad, miserable state. No negative split for me.

Chicago, in contrast, had an estimated 1.7 million spectators and a record breaking 44,000 plus runners this year. There were people either cheering you on or running with you every step of the way. The energy was intense.

Not only was there support in the form of spectators and fellow runners. There were also the tireless volunteers (about 12,000 of them) who supplied fluids and nutrition along the course. Once I got to the finish, there were more volunteers who handed out water, food, and heat sheets. There were also volunteers that hung the coveted medal around your neck. Not to mention many, many more volunteers that worked behind the scenes to make the race run smoothly.

I was incredibly grateful to have this level of support. To have all of these people there for me on as I chased a bucket list item meant the world to me.

Similarly, you need to have your cheerleaders and support system there for you as you pursue your financial goals. Could you do it the alone? Sure. Is it easier with a community of support around you? Yes! We humans are wired for connectivity, and this is no different.

WHAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL

I had learned enough from my first marathon to tweak my strategy in Chicago. Without that experience, I doubt I would have had the positive experience that I did. I ran most of the race very comfortably, taking the time to enjoy the sights and sounds around me as I wound my way through the streets of Chicago. Unfortunately, I saw others with grim looks on their faces, needing to stop and rest in order to catch their breath and give their tired legs a break. Based on my past experience, I knew exactly what they were going through.

In addition to following a better training schedule and changing my strategy with pacing and fueling, what helped immensely this time around was the cooler weather and the cloud cover. Race participants check the weather obsessively beforehand. No matter how well you’ve trained your body, the weather can wreak havoc to your best laid plans. My first marathon ended up being much warmer than I had expected, with not much shade along the course to shield runners from the bright sun. Frequent fluid intake and pouring water over my head seemed to provide little relief. So I embraced the chilly start this time around, as it allowed me to feel more comfortable once I started to get my heart pumping.

You can become a control freak with your money. But at some point, you have to understand that you cannot control everything. Use your precious energy and time for things that you can actually control. Leave the other stuff for the universe to figure out.

YOUR JOURNEY

You will have your own, unique journey. It will have its ups and downs. The “weather gods” will give you favorable or unfavorable conditions. But remember that you can do some research and “train” for a smoother journey. You don’t have to go at it alone. Find those moments of gratitude while you are on your path. And remember, there is a finish line waiting for you.

Anyone else have similar experiences? Any nuggets of wisdom you’d like to share? Comment below!

4 Comments

  1. xrayvsn on October 16, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Really impressed. Did not know you were a marathoner. Completing even one is a huge accomplishment and takes far more dedication than I can muster.

    Nice tie in with finances. People have always said it’s a marathon not a sprint when describing FI and you clearly have proven it with firsthand experiences.

    • Financial Wellness DVM on October 16, 2018 at 9:02 pm

      I’m full of surprises! 😉 Parenting and running a couple of marathons have taught me a lot about patience- I’m afraid of where I’d be without those experiences!

  2. Ceb on October 27, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    I am 26 years old now and i am planning on starting to have my financial goals and this article, have given me a lot of ideas. Good read and informative.

    • RLDVM on October 27, 2019 at 9:33 pm

      Glad it was helpful- thanks for stopping by!

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