Why Good Investing Should be Treated as a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Why Good Investing Should be Treated as a Marathon, Not a Sprint

August 21, 2023

When it comes to good investing, we’d all love to be able to find an easy way to make lots of money quickly, and without risk. But the fact is that simply isn’t realistic. Whether we like it or not, good investing takes time, dedication, and a willingness to stick at it - much like building up the stamina to run a marathon.

I am an investment advisor, and I am a runner. So I consider myself pretty well placed to dig deep with the analogy of how good investing is like a marathon. And if you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know I’m a big fan of using my real-life experiences to help teach important financial lessons. So bear with me folks, I’m going long here. 26 miles long. 

With my work as an investment advisor here in Columbia, Missouri, I bring 15 years of experience to help me set a healthy pace for my clients. I’ve put in the miles so that they don’t have to - I like to think of it as helping them to run a marathon without the sweating. 

Good investing takes time, and the right kind of mindset. It requires well-considered choices about what your starting line looks like, and where the finishing line is. Because what’s the point of running if you don’t know where you’re going, and you’re not having fun along the way?

So let’s put our best foot forward and get on track with this. I know. I can’t help myself.

Why Good Investing Is Like Running a Marathon

“Did you know it's illegal to run a marathon unless you tell 80 people about it all day every day for three months?” – Jimmy Kimmel

I am an insufferable, annoying runner. Maybe it’s the stickers. 13.1! 26.2! Everyone hates the stickers. I was told I needed to run at least 5 races before claiming I run so loudly on my car. So I put the stickers on my Yeti. I have a strange relationship with the stickers.

I am not a crazy runner. I am not David Goggins. I won’t run 70 miles with shin splints. 

I’ve never actually run a marathon (in one day). The longest race I’ve done was on the trails of Dogwood Canyon in Branson Missouri. It is a two-day race. 25k on day one. 15k on day two.  The story of this race hopefully convinces you of the parallels between distance running and investing.

The first five miles are the hardest

At Dogwood Canyon, I thought I would die the first five miles. I struggled to find a pace, it was crowded and I couldn’t quite get a rhythm. The terrain was unfamiliar and it was all a bit jarring. 

In the life of the investor, the first months in the market can be the most difficult. The terminology is unfamiliar, the products may seem overly complex. It can feel overwhelming, especially if there are large dollars at stake. This is normal. The best thing you can do is keep going.

You have to have the right shoes

In the weeks before the race, I bought a new pair of trail shoes. Trail shoes are designed for better traction when you're off road versus other running shoes. It took me a few twisted ankles to appreciate the importance of the right shoes.

When investing money, it’s important to pick the right types of investments for your goals, age and stage of life. Understanding the basics doesn't take long, but mastering the nuances can take a lifetime. 

Walk up-hill and run downhill

The first time I ran the Dogwood Canyon race, I injured my achilles. It is a hilly course and I ran the uphill portions. Big mistake. I ran the same race three years later and I was much smarter. I took my time on the uphill portions and let gravity do the work for me on the downhills. 

Smart investing happens slowly (because it takes time) but if you are an aggressive saver with a well-designed portfolio, you can let compounding do the work for you.

Pray for good weather, but be prepared for poor conditions

The Dogwood race in Missouri is held in late October. The weather is completely unpredictable and can range anywhere from 20 degrees at the start of the race to 70 degrees at the finish. I always wear layers.

Just like the weather, it’s difficult to predict the future market direction or economic environment. Instead of trying to predict, prepare yourself with a portfolio designed to be successful (and have a process to adjust) in any environment.

Run your own race

If I let my ego lead, I would be passing people and running top speed on the first 25k leg. But I would likely never make it to the next day. I wouldn’t even finish the race. You have to have the ability and the agility to meet the opportunity, or else you will get hurt.

You’re not trying to beat other investors and your economy is not the economy. Try to tune out the fear-inducing headlines to focus on your own goals and manage factors within your control to meet those goals.

It’s more fun with a trusted partner

I ran the Dogwood Canyon race with my favorite girlfriends. They always have my back and pick me up when I am struggling to keep going. 

If you’d like a running partner to tackle investing with, I’d love to chat with you. Book a complimentary 30-minute discovery call and we will start your couch to 401k program right away.