How Training for a Marathon is like Managing Your Finances: Lesson 14

Tina Haapala |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

The marathon was going well. I had just passed mile 16. That’s when I first noticed some of my strength ebb. Fatigue filled the void.

Usually, water station stops meant a quick walk through as I took a few sips and then ran out. Instead I found myself walking to the station and the sipping taking me far beyond. This wasn’t a change in strategy; this was my body taking over from my mind. My graceful form faltered: Instead of dancing over the pavement, my steps became heavy. By mile 18 my gait was pounding into the asphalt and the cement transferred the shock to my joints.

By mile 20, all my ligaments were inflamed. Something felt like strands of barbed wire being sawed back and forth against the backs of my knees. Every time my feet hit the pavement, I felt like a nail gun was being fired into them. My right knee, giving in early, made my running look like a fast limp.

That’s when I heard the conversation. My body was saying that it was time to end this. I’d start walking which quieted that voice and another (from what was left of my mind) rose up to tell me that I needed to run to get this thing over with. So, run I did. Run, walk, run, walk. Passing a cemetery all I could think was, “that would be nice.” Fellow runners later told me they had similar thoughts.

The dreaded “wall” in marathon running and other endurance events has a lot of press on how to minimize or even prevent it. But for most runners it is a given. And that’s where the second lesson I talked about last week came in handy: It was from the pain I experienced during my long run four weeks prior to the marathon.

That lesson taught me what reading articles couldn’t, because it is a lesson that must be experienced. I can’t really explain it well to you now. I had learned what is was like to run into the wall. But the lesson didn’t stop by experiencing it; it led to new knowledge, changed strategies, and, most importantly, with me knowing that I could endure the pain.

By now everything in me was falling apart. I was not having fun. I was not enjoying the experience. But I was not stopping.

In the investment world, investors need the fortitude to get through their walls. Life will fall apart, taking your free cash with it. Greed will take over Wall Street and shatter your portfolio. When one unexpected event after another hammers your emotions, that’s when you need to have learned from whatever lessons you’ve had the opportunity to experience. When your foundation is crumbling beneath you, you will know you will be able to stand. You will not have fun; you will not enjoy the experience. But you can’t stop.

Now it was time for another lesson that can only be learned during the marathon itself. I needed to run through the wall.

Six more miles to go.


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