The “Marathon” Mindset

Good Morning Relaxing Retirement Subscriber,

Although injuries have prevented Colleen from running the Boston Marathon these last few years, we are all still glued into the marathon training and running process.

In the weeks leading up to the big race, we see thousands of runners training and preparing every Saturday and Sunday morning on the marathon route given that the marathon comes through our town.

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

At the marathon distance, 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 will never finish.

To begin with, except for the elite runners, it’s 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.

  • Pacing Strategy: 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.

  • Battling the Elements: You have to prepare to deal with the “elements”. In some years, it’s the rain. In others, a head wind (or a tail wind like this year).

    Training in January and February this year was manageable. However, March’s snow storms and April’s cold start was much more challenging.

    Marathon Monday this year was sunny and approached 80 degrees in the afternoon! Not exactly easy for those who trained in the bitter cold. The contrast is a very challenging adjustment for your body.

  • Dealing with Injuries: 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.

The Strategy

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. Your Retirement Bucket that you’ve so carefully accumulated 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, the odds of you running out of money go up dramatically.

With rapidly increasing technology and the proliferation of the mass media through television, talk radio, and the internet, it has become so much easier 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 funds each month or year to support your desired lifestyle.

From my 28 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 to stop adding money to and begin withdrawing money from your Retirement Bucket!

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”.

Committed to Your Relaxing Retirement,

Jack Phelps

The Retirement Coach
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(The content of this letter does not constitute a tax opinion. Always consult with a competent tax professional service provider for advice on tax matters specific to your situation.)