It’s a Marathon, Not a Race. Namaste.

Sunday May 20th was the Denver Colfax Marathon, my first run of the year. This made us think about how the similarities between reaching financial and fitness goals strike us as ironic. Neither is easy and both require the adoption of similar mindsets. Today we will share how the mindset of training for marathons is helpful for achieving long-term financial goals.

Next Sunday I’m doing the Colfax half (13.1 miles), then we’re both doing the Denver Rock & Roll Marathon in October. David is still recovering from his torn ACL and MCL from a skiing accident a year ago and his broken foot from when or where we don’t know. He’s not delicate, re-ally. His first marathon for the year will be the Rock & Roll half. I still want to check off my bucket list item of running a full (26.2 miles), so I am considering doing the Rock & Roll full. Sorry, Mom!

Our inaugural marathon was the Denver Colfax half three years ago. We’ve always run for exercise, but never anything neither official nor longer than our annual Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning.

The Turkey Trot is a favorite tradition of ours. It’s a 5K that we run Thanksgiving morning with an assemblage of friends and other Denverites. Afterwards, we hit up a local bar that’s a favorite of ours for Bloody Marys, and then we either host or attend Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a great way to wake ourselves up and not succumb to the lethargy of only stuffing our faces with food all day.

We usually start our training in March. The first couple of weeks are brutal. We tend to have a lumbering, clumsy cadence after a three month hiatus from road running. We run on the tread-mill in the off-season, but it’s not the same and we certainly don’t do long runs, as it’s a literal exercise in monotony only a gerbil could love.

The first several runs are always a surprise. It’s an eye-opener to get an assessment of how well or, usually, not well conditioned we are and how far we must go to reach our goal. The goal sometimes feels unattainable and distant, but we stay focused and regularly and consistently train. Each week we run just a little further than the week prior.

An amateur runner, much like a yoga practitioner, must not compare themselves to others. For most amateur runners, the goal is to finish. The goal isn’t to finish first. To look around at the field of runners and see who is better and worse is futile. The marathon for amateurs is personal and internal. To look outward creates envy and frustration.

Training for marathons is comparable to striving for financial goals, such as getting out of credit card debt or saving for college. The shock of the initial assessment alone is sometimes insurmountable. It causes many to adopt a mindset of not being #moneyconscious and assume the fabled position of a scared ostrich. Hope becomes the singular means for them to achieve their financial goals.

A scared ostrich, by the way, can run up to 43 miles per hour.

Also Read: 5 Tips for Getting Out of Debt

For those who can overcome the shock of an initial financial assessment, the commitment to regularly and consistently do what is necessary is still daunting. Just as an amateur runner must build up endurance and add a mile to their run each week until they can endure 13.1 or 26.2 miles, savers and investors must practice similar progression for years to reach financial goals that can include a couple hundred thousand to millions of dollars. Savers and investors must make small, regular payments to a credit card company or make contributions to a goal-specific savings or brokerage account. Runners preparing for marathons benefit from interval training, including running paces faster than normal. Savers and investors also benefit from picking up their pace by putting things such as bonuses, tax returns, gifts and inheritance towards long-term financial goals.

The initial period of time to reach financial goals can be as lumbering and clumsy as the initial weeks of training for a marathon. Mistakes happen. Payments and contributions are missed. Regardless of the one or two tripped over hurdles, committed savers and investors know that there are many more opportunities that lay ahead. With a focus on the long-term goal, they can more easily get back up and continue with their marathon.

Though training for a marathon does not take nearly as long as achieving lofty financial goals, the mindset necessary to attain both goals are similar. A singular, long-term focus and a commitment to regularity and consistency are required because they’re both marathons of sorts. Neither goal can be achieved with a race mentality. A race mentality may be good for short-term goals, but the long-term, far-reaching goals require a long-distance, marathon mentality.

Those who are reaching for long-term financial goals can’t waste their energy comparing them-selves to others, either. To do so creates jealousy, envy and frustration. All of these are impediments to goals of any kind and can often throw savers and investors off course or stop them dead in their tracks.

Those who are reaching for long-term financial goals serve themselves well by adopting the mindsets of marathon runners and remember that it’s a marathon, not a race.


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