Pacing Yourself: Advanced Lessons

Personal Money Planning |


By Gary Silverman, CFP®

If you are a regular reader, you know I’m a runner (and you also had to endure a 15-week series comparing investing to lessons I learned preparing for and running a marathon). A little more than a month ago I ran a half-marathon. While a half-marathon is nothing to sneeze at, it’s within normal bounds of the running I do regularly.

I began the race at about a 10:30 pace. That means I was running at a speed where I could cover one mile in 10-1/2 minutes. This is about a middling speed for someone my age and is in line with the last few half-marathons I had raced.

Remembering back, I was rather pleased with myself. You see, many runners have this tendency of starting fast. Our legs are fresh, we’re excited, there’s music blaring, and then the gun, cannon, or horn sounds and we’re off. Problem is, if you start too fast you will bonk (runner’s term for running out of energy) well before the end of the race.

This day I was starting at an absolute perfect pace. 10:30 was what I wanted, 10:30 was what I did. Then, about half-way through the 13.1 mile race my body was telling me that things weren’t going so right. Almost instantly I knew what was happening. My 10:30 pace was indeed perfect—but not for this race.

My previous three half-marathons were done in cool, low humidity conditions. That was not today. Today was 10-20 degrees hotter than my previous races and, more importantly, a heck of a lot more humid.

Interesting thing about the human body: It makes heat. During periods of exertion, it sweats to try and get rid of this heat. Sweating works because of the cooling effects of evaporation. You may have noticed that when the humidity is high, that evaporation doesn’t work too well. All you do is get wet. The 200 people running the race were drenched. The sweat wasn’t evaporating, it was pouring off of us.

So, while my 10:30 start was perfect for a 65-degree, 35-percent humidity morning, it was way too fast for an 80-degree, 85-percent humidity morning. I know all that. It just didn’t register in my mind that morning. Now, halfway through, I was overheated, feeling faint, and starting to bonk. I was in trouble.

Fortunately, at that point I didn’t panic, I knew how to get back into a condition that would allow me to finish the race. My running style shifted from racing to survival. It worked, and I came in 3rd in my age-group out of eight (we were all having a bad day).

So why am I telling you all this? Because this has a direct correlation to investing. Want to know how? Well, cut this out, put it in a safe place, and come back next week. I promise to not stretch it to 15 weeks this time.


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.