What Marathon Training Taught Me About Success, Persistence, and When to Ask for Help

At the 2018 Client Appreciation Event, we heard from Caroline Gaynor, Regional Director for Dimensional Fund Advisors and seasoned triathlon guide for the visually impaired. Caroline shared her experiences competing in triathlons, and the time, effort, and dedication it takes to prepare for such events. As I listened to Caroline, she began to inspire me to take on something that would truly challenge me, both physically and mentally. Although I’m not much of a swimmer and I am not overly interested in biking, running is something I have had prior experience with. I have always wanted to run a marathon, so I started training.

I set a goal to be ready to run the Tri-Cities Marathon on October 27, 2019. I knew this would be a big challenge, but I also knew the reward of reaching my goal would be even greater. I made the decision to go running every opportunity I had—sometimes waking up at ridiculous hours of the morning just to run an extra couple of miles. As the weeks and months passed, I would increase my distance and improve on my times. If I was making improvements, I was happy with my training—progress, not perfection, was what I was striving for.

Around the beginning of September, roughly two months before the marathon, I began running longer distances (18–20 miles) in order to improve my endurance. One Saturday morning, I was running my 18-mile route and found myself feeling tired just 3 miles in. My body was telling me there was no way I was going to be able to run 15 more miles; but, despite my fatigue, I pushed on and made it to the 18-mile mark.

Throughout my training I received support, encouragement, and advice from seasoned runners. For me, the advice I received was just as important as the training itself. Knowing exactly when to hydrate or refuel during a run, or when to take a rest day to avoid risk of injury from overtraining, is invaluable to runners of all experience levels. But knowing my own body, I initially thought I knew better. I would go on longer runs or try to maintain a faster pace than my previous run—I was chasing the numbers. In doing this, I ended up taking two steps backwards instead of one step forward. The lesson I learned from this was that, by listening and learning from those with experience and knowledge, I was able to make more progress than I ever would have on my own.

The same can be said when one is contemplating retirement. You may have a specific time in your life when you are planning to retire. From investment choices to tax and estate planning, you may feel that you have a good idea of all you need to do to reach your retirement goals; but like training for a marathon, there is much more to retirement planning than you may initially think. If you are already working with a financial advisor, you will likely agree that working with a professional has made your financial life much simpler. You have an expert in retirement planning to advise you, just as I had seasoned runners to assist and advise me through my training.

I am proud to say, after months of training, preparation, and personal setbacks, this past Sunday, October 27, I ran the Tri-Cities Marathon.

I reached my goal.

Sam competing in the 2019 Tri-Cities Marathon
Sam receives a celebratory hug from daughter, Emma

Samuel Ward, FPQP™