This past Monday nearly 30,000 runners from more than 100 countries took to the starting line of the 127th Boston Marathon. Arriving at the starting line is no easy feat. For most, it requires a qualifying time that seems impossible for even a seasoned runner, logging hundreds of miles during training, overcoming the inevitable injuries, planning nutrition for the weeks leading up to the race and then traveling to Boston and hoping for good weather. The field was stacked this year with many of the world’s fastest runners partaking in what I would consider the “Super Bowl” of distance running.
One such runner was Hellen Obiri, a 33-year-old Kenyan woman and one of the top female runners in the world. Hellen was running Boston for the very first time after moving to Boulder, CO in 2022 to train with a new club. As part of her training, Hellen’s coach encouraged her to slow down in order to speed up. While counterintuitive, many top runners and coaches extoll the virtues of running longer distances at a slower pace, with an emphasis on simply logging the miles and focusing on form. The idea is that running slowly most of the time allows you to run fast when you really need to and avoid injuries along the way. Even Eliud Kipchoge, arguably the greatest marathoner ever, trains at a pace about three minutes slower than his race day pace, albeit his slow pace is still faster than I’ve ever run a mile!
There are many similarities between training for and running a marathon and long-term investing. Both require a good plan, patience, and mental fortitude, especially when events don’t unfold like you expect. To give yourself the opportunity for the best possible outcome on race day, it is imperative to have a plan and stick to it. A similar plan is needed in long-term investing to achieve your financial goals, whether that’s retiring at a certain age, leaving your children with an inheritance, or donating a desired amount to your favorite charity. Along the way, it is easy to become distracted by swings in the market or opportunities to make a quick profit, just like it is easy to skip that training run when you are on vacation, but history shows us that it is the investors who define their strategy and remain committed that come out on top.
In my experience, the hardest part about running a marathon is not developing the physical strength to complete the race, it is having the mental strength to keep going. A coach can help you plan and offer advice, much like an investment advisor. The key is to find a great coach that will keep you accountable and give you the tools to succeed. The patient mentality paid off for Hellen – she ended up finishing the Boston Marathon this year in a blistering 2 hours 21 minutes and 38 seconds, coming in first place and leaving her competitors in the dust.