As has become the norm in our household, we had a front row seat watching my wife Colleen train for and run the Boston Marathon last Monday along with 39,000 other runners.
Fortunately, her training paid off and she had a good day.
Every year while I’m watching, I can’t help but think that there is so much we can all learn by closely observing the Boston Marathon.
The analogies to your retirement stage in life you’re experiencing right now are so compelling, and the lessons from studying it are too important not to take note of.
What has always been so interesting to me is how differently you have to physically and ‘mentally’ prepare for a marathon vs. a 5k (3.1 miles) or a 10k race (6.2 miles). The preparation for each of them bears very little resemblance, even though you’re running in both situations.
When you know you only have 3.1 or 6.2 miles to run, you can really let loose and run at a faster-than-normal pace because you know you don’t have too far to run. Even if you’re out of your ‘comfort zone’ the entire race, you know it will be short lived so you can manage it.
The BIGGEST Difference Between a Marathon and a 5K
With a marathon, everything changes drastically.
26.2 miles is a long way to go by anyone’s standards. And, accordingly, your strategy and mindset have to be completely different or you’ll never finish.
To begin with, this is NOT a race.
It’s a marathon.
You can always tell the amateurs at any race because they all sprint right out of the gate. They get so caught up in the emotions of the Boston Marathon that they lose sight of the goal which, first and foremost, is to finish.
- You have to prepare and have a long term pacing strategy. You do this by knowing what pace you can comfortably run for long distances. You develop this over months of short, intermediate, and long distance runs where you time yourself so you have a measuring stick. During the race, you have to constantly be checking your pace so you can make sure you’re not running too fast, or too slow.
- You have to prepare to deal with the “elements”. In some years, it’s the rain. In others, a head wind. This year’s Boston had a brutally cold and blustery training season, and then a mild to warm marathon day. If you were starting in the last corral, and you were still running near 4:00 p.m., it was over 65 degrees near the finish! Normally, that wouldn’t be a huge issue. However, after training in sub 20 degrees all winter, the contrast is a very challenging adjustment for your body.
- Finally, you’ve got to deal with injuries. This means preventing them from occurring in the first place by training correctly, and dealing with those that occur anyway. Injuries are inevitable if you’re going to run a marathon.
So, how do the intimate details of training for and running a marathon help you?
Well, if you stop and think about it, there’s a perfect analogy to investing at this stage in your life. And, there’s a ton we can all learn by the discipline and stamina necessary to complete a marathon.
Like a marathoner, you’re in this for the long run. The money that you’ve so carefully saved and built up over your working years must now support you for the rest of your life.
That requires a great deal of preparation and stamina. It doesn’t just happen by accident.
If you get caught up in the “emotions” of stock market reporting each day (i.e. “the elements”), and you don’t have the correct mindset and long-term strategy, you could very well run out of money.
With rapidly increasing technology and the proliferation of the mass media through television, talk radio, newspapers, magazines, and the internet, it’s easy to lose sight of the long term and get distracted.
It requires serious restraint, discipline, and stamina on your part.
The challenge for you is that, for all intents and purposes, the race to save more money is over. Chances are great that you’re not going to add too much more to your Retirement Bucket™.
Instead, you’re now going to be withdrawing some of the money you’ve saved to live on.
From my 25 years of coaching so many of you, I can tell you that making that transition requires a significant amount of confidence.
And, it doesn’t matter how much money you have. It just doesn’t feel normal for anyone!
That’s why it’s so important to have a disciplined, well thought out “system” of decision making about your money at this stage in your life.
Now, it’s true that following a carefully thought out, disciplined, custom-designed plan is not as glamorous as reading about the latest trendy investment and wondering why you’re not invested in it.
Or, checking out where the market is 3 times per day, or listening to pundits on television or talk radio argue over what’s the “best” thing for “everyone” to do (and believing that it applies to your unique situation).
However, you can’t afford to be tantalized by all of that at this stage in your life.
You, too, are running a marathon. And, that requires a very specific “marathon mindset”.