How Training for a Marathon is Like Managing your Finances: Lesson 10

Tina Haapala |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

We continue my series about my attempt to run a marathon (with financial analogies sprinkled in).

The marathon I had been training to run was less than two weeks away. In 10 days, I would wake up in Tulsa, put on a lot of funny looking clothes, and head out to start what I hoped would be 26.2 miles of endurance. Then I looked at the 10-day weather forecast.

Realize that when you have a 6-month training plan that ends in November and you happen to live in Texas, you are going to do a lot of your training in the summer. You know, that six-month period where your shoes sink into parking lot asphalt? November in Tulsa doesn’t normally resemble that.

This was not a surprise to me. One of the reasons I picked Tulsa for this attempt was that I had run a much shorter race (23.1 miles shorter) in bone-chilling cold the previous year. So, I was ready for colder weather. I even bought a sweatshirt at the Goodwill to wear while I waited for the race to start (which can take close to an hour).

I was not able to train in cold since, well, there just wasn’t any cold to train in. No worries there—runners like cold. Depending on the effort you put into the run, “perfect” marathon temperatures are in the range of 39 to 45 degrees. If that seems cold, don’t forget that we are running so our bodies are creating a lot of heat that needs to dissipate. And the lower the temperature, the easier it is for that to happen.

That’s why when I saw that starting temperature wouldn’t be much above 35-degrees I wasn’t worried. It would be colder than optimum, but adding clothing is not that hard. Then I saw what else the forecast said: 40% chance of showers, maybe including freezing rain.

Running in cold weather is tolerable, and to a certain point desirable. But running while soaking wet and in close to freezing temperatures is a potential disaster. This is what happened during the Boston Marathon last year. Temperatures were around 40, there was a constant rain, and winds up to 20 miles per hour. Some of the most experienced runners quit well before the finish line as hypothermia was a very real concern.

Tulsa was shaping up to be as bad or worse.

Thing is, a bad run is always a possibility…in running and in life. There are so many variables completely out of your control. Being aware and prepared makes going through it easier. I wasn’t going to wait until I was pelted by wind-whipped rain to decide what to do about it. Before the event, I got together bags for my feet, trash bags for my torso, chemical hand warmers, a rain-resistant jacket and hat, and plenty of Vaseline to coat exposed flesh.

You, too, need to consider all the economic environments that might thrust their way upon you and hurt your portfolio. Be ready for them. Know what you would do (or ask your advisor what the plan is) if worse comes to worst.

Next week: The run.