How Training for a Marathon is like Managing Your Finances: Lesson 11

Tina Haapala |

The day of my run finally arrived. Although I’ve been talking about training for a marathon, I was actually going to attempt an Ultra. An Ultra is a distance beyond the norm for a particular race. For a marathon where you normally go 26.2 miles an ultra might be 5 or 10 miles beyond that. For the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa they have this special feature: The shortest Ultra in the world. Basically, it is a detour that takes you back and forth across an overpass…a tiny 0.3 miles tacked on.

As anticipated, I didn’t get much sleep the night before the race. As anticipated, the lines in front of the porta-potties were really long. Think about it, you want to start the race well hydrated as you’ll be sweating off a serious amount of fluid, even in freezing weather, and you are going to bounce up and down all day on your feet. Potties are your friend.

Lined up with a few thousand other crazies—about 1500 doing the marathon and 4500 the half-marathon—I waited on the cannons to go off. BANG!

But wait, let me back up a bit. As I mentioned earlier in this series, I have a problem of starting races too fast. Excitement, adrenaline, and most everyone also starting too fast doesn’t help. But larger races have people called pacers. These are highly experienced runners who run at a certain pace. Want to finish the marathon in 4 hours? Just keep up with the 4-hour pacer. Want to take your time and get it done in 5-1/2? Follow the guy holding the balloon-covered stick with the 5:30 sign. My plan was to not run faster than the 5:15 pacer nor slower than the 5:30 pacer.

That was my plan. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, plans don’t always go according to plan. A comedy of errors on my part messed up this race-day strategy. Buy me a cup of coffee sometime and I’ll regale you with the tragic tale. Long story short, I was nowhere near the pacers.

When you plan anything, you must be aware that even when you plan for all the contingencies you can think of, there can still be another one ready to surprise you. I was prepared for extremely cold or abnormally hot temperatures. I was ready for freezing rain. Potential accidents? Covered. I had extra socks and laces, bandages, energy gels, and even a little toilet paper.

I hadn’t counted on not having the pacers.

The key to dealing with any contingency, especially one that was not anticipated: Don’t Panic! Personality and/or experience helps with this. Fortunately, though I had been running less than two years.   I had run 30 races in that time. Trust me, not a single race was run where everything went according to plan—and many of them had stuff happen I hadn’t even thought of. So, when I lost my pacers, I simply changed my plan on the fly.

Yes, my race wasn’t going to be plan-perfect—but is anything?

Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing