The Importance of Running Your Own Race

It was brisk fall morning in October in Vienna, Austria when Eliud Kipchoge toed the line on the Reichsbrucke Bridge preparing to run 26.2 miles. While the distance was that of the marathon, this was no ordinary marathon attempt.  Eliud was the only racer running and the goal was to run a marathon faster than any human being in history. Eliud would attempt to break the fabled 2-hour marathon. An immense amount of preparation went into giving him every advantage possible to increase his chances of success.  Already holding the world record time for the marathon distance, he was the obvious candidate for the attempt. The location was selected intentionally.  Vienna provided the best combination of low altitude, dry weather and calm winds. In order to break the 2-hour mark, he would have to run a mile every four minutes and 34 seconds.  To assist with this, he had a pacing team made up of 35 of the best runners in the world.  These runners worked in seven man shifts to create an aerodynamically optimal “reverse V” shape to minimize wind resistance. To help fuel him throughout the grueling run, he relied heavily on a supplemental carbohydrate drink.  He was estimated to take in 60 to 100 grams of carbs per hour during his run and his bottles were biked to him so that he would not have to slow his pace reaching for a bottle. Finally, Nike produced a highly controversial new shoe now commercially available named the Vaporfly 4%.  They claim the shoes increase your running efficiency by four percent through their carbon plate and supersoft foam. Eliud crossed the line at 1:59:40 becoming the only human to ever break two hours in the marathon distance. Stepping back in time to 2008, we see a new name emerging as a contender for the gold medal in the 100-meter dash – Usain Bolt. Leading up to the race, the Jamaican was living off 100 chicken nuggets per day as he did not trust any of the Chinese food. He lined up and as the gun goes off, he quickly emerges ahead of the remaining runners.  A full three lengths ahead of his nearest competitor, he glances left and the right before spreading his arms as he crosses the finish line. A world record time of 9.69 seconds. Two runners, each the greatest to have ever run their chosen distances. So what does this have to do with you? For all their greatness, each athlete would not stand a chance in a race of the opposing athletes specialty.  They were able to achieve greatness and reach their goal by focusing on their own race and what was needed to get every bit of performance they could from their distance. We see examples of people trying to run others race all the time.  There’s even a term for it – keeping up with the Joneses. Have you ever had some friends get a cool new car and you felt the need to upgrade yourself?  Or gone on a fun trip that made you want to go somewhere as well?  Maybe bought a new house that gave you the desire to find a new mcmansion of your own. In today’s age of social media this urge is worse than ever.  Not only do we feel the need to keep up with neighbors, friends, and coworkers – we now feel the need to keep up with one-time acquaintances and complete strangers. There are a number of things to keep in mind here.  Just because they are spending the money doesn’t mean it is a good idea, it could be coming at the expense of needed savings.  Even if it is a good idea for them, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you. When it comes to your financial situation it is important not to listen to people running a different race as well. Those talking heads on financial TV?  They don’t care that you don’t plan to touch your investments for 5, 10, 20 or more years.  They are concerned with what is happening today, tomorrow, and next week. There is always going to be a crisis of the day and fear drives eyeballs in the media. The purpose of this post isn’t to shame you for your spending choices.  It’s not meant to shame others for theirs.  What it is meant to do is to remind you that you need to focus on running your race. Usain Bolt’s 100 meter pace would equate to a two minute 37 second mile.  Eliud Kipchoge’s mile pace for the marathon is four minutes and 37 seconds.  Both world record holders, drastically different paces, both focused on running their own race and nothing else.

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