10 Things Similar About Personal Finance And Running The NYC Marathon

It was a little over two years ago that I completed all 26.2 miles of the ING NYC Marathon.  This past weekend over 40,000 people ran the race.  Let me tell you running a marathon is an awesome experience!  There’s a lot of work and pain but it’s all worth it once it’s over.

Know what else is a lot of work and pain but well worth it?

Taking care of your personal finances! 

In fact there are a lot of similarities between running a marathon and personal finance.

Here are ten thoughts on personal finance and marathons:

Anyone can do it.

If I can run 26.2 miles then anyone can train for it.  Heck, there was a time when I’d say you were insane if you suggested I run a marathon!  The most I could conceive of was maybe three miles and that would probably have maxed me out.

But I learned I could it and so could you.

There was also a time when I never thought I could get out of debt.  I wanted to, but I didn’t think I’d ever get my head above water.  But I chipped away little by little and managed to get rid of my credit card debt.  Do you have credit card debt?  You can get rid of yours too!

Slow and steady does it.

I’m no Olympic athlete.  I wasn’t out to break any world records.  My goal was to finish and if I could beat my previous time then all the better.  My training was made up of long distances where I added a little more every week.  Bit by bit the runs got longer and eventually I was running for hours at a time.

Financial goals can seem far away at times and seemingly impossible to reach.  But you keep at it and chip away at the debt and slowly save and you put away a bit for retirement.  It may not seem like much but after a while it starts to add up until one day you realize your debt has disappeared, your savings have grown, and you have quite a bit put away for retirement.  Slow and steady does it!

It’s all in the mind.

For sure you have to train the body but a marathon is a distance that tests the mind as well.  When the body starts to give out it’s the mind, your will, that takes over pushing you through to the finish line.  So many times training I thought “why bother?”  “Why not sleep in instead,” I would ask myself as my alarm went off early on the weekend (and when I say early I mean like 5-6 in the morning).  Even in the marathon my family met me around mile 15 and before I saw them I thought about leaving the course and going home with them.

But I pushed through and finished the race. 

It’s not so different with personal finance.

It’s not all just numbers; personal finance is about habits and psychology as well.  We shop and spend because it feels good.  When you start to take control of your finances it can be tough changing your routines.  It’s easy to want to say “hell with it” and go on a spending spree and “treat yourself right.”

But you push through and remind yourself of your financial goals, regaining your focus of building wealth.  Personal finance isn’t just numbers in an account, it’s what’s going on in your mind as well!

I don’t have time for bullshit negativity.

Most people are really supportive of running a marathon but there are a few out there that automatically say “why bother” or “that’s crazy.”  Don’t listen to them!  If I can’t get positive support then I don’t want to hear it.  Why people feel like they need to bring other people down, I don’t know.  Could be jealousy?  Who knows?  But I don’t have time for it.  I want to hear from people that will support me and push me to be better.

With personal finance there are also naysayers who will tell you to go out and enjoy yourself now.  “Don’t worry about tomorrow” they’ll say.  They just want you to be in the same miserable place they are in.  Again, don’t listen to them.  Follow your goals!

It takes sacrifice.

One morning I needed to get a long run in.  It was starting to really feel like Autumn outside and was raining as well.  In the rain, 50 degrees feels much colder.  Especially when you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  You can guess I didn’t want to get up that morning!

But I went anyway. 

I was running along some new trails and within 15 minutes my feet were wet.  By the time I finished I had a blister on the bottom of one of my feet.  As this was a long run my body would be in pain for a couple of days.

It was worth it!

Training for the marathon takes sacrifice.  Nothing worth earning comes easy.

With personal finance there is sacrifice as well.  You can’t go out and buy every new gadget that comes out.  You can’t treat yourself to a luxury car every few years.  In fact reaching your financial goals might mean more Ramen Noodle days than you would like.  But in the end it worth it to sacrifice now to reach your goals.

The day will come when you CAN afford those things that have value to you and you will realize the sacrifice was worth it.

Mistakes will be made, but that’s OK.

personal finance and the NYC marathon

There are a lot of similarities between running a marathon and your personal finances.

I’ve gone out on runs without enough carbs or enough water.  Some times I wore the wrong clothes for the weather that day.  I didn’t train as much as I needed to.  Even during the marathon I could have done some things differently.

But mistakes happen and it’s ok. 

It’s not mistakes that define you but how you get beyond the mistakes.  Mistakes are fine so long as you learn from them.  In fact mistakes are great opportunities for growth.

The same holds true in personal finance.  Please, everyone has a different situation and if handling your finances were always easy then everyone would be wealthy.  Yes, you will make mistakes, I’ve certainly made mine!  But you learn from your mistakes and try to minimize the damage.

Mistakes mean you’re taking action.

I’m reminded of the saying “A ship is safest in harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.”  It’s better to make some mistakes than to be afraid and get stuck in indecision.

There’s something magical that happens when people cheer you on.

There is so much support along the marathon.  You would think that most people would be there to see the professional athletes and the celebrities and then leave.  But that’s not the case.  All along the 26.2 miles you can find people shouting to you to keep going and telling you you’re doing great.

You’d be amazed how much that can help you along when your legs feel like rocks and your lungs are on fire!

These are the kinds of people you need to help you reach your financial goals!  Find people who have similar goals as you or who have gone through financial situation similar to you.  These days there are a ton of sites and forums you can visit to find people who can help support your financial goals.

You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

There were so many runners at the marathon such that if you saw them you’d assume they would easily dust my time!

And many, if not most, did.

But many didn’t either.

I passed people who looked like they should have been running faster than me.  On the other hand, there were people who looked out of shape by traditional running standards (more so than me even) or of such an age that you wouldn’t think they would run fast.

But here they were passing me by like it was nothing.

See, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  You don’t know what’s really inside a person until they show it to you.

With personal finance you may see a neighbor with a luxury car or a great big house and you wish you had what they have.

But you don’t really know their situation.

You don’t know if they are really up to their chins in debt.  A person’s stuff doesn’t always show who they are!

Preparation yields dividends.

You can’t just wake up and decide to run a marathon on race day.  It takes a lot of work, training to get to where you can run 26.2 miles.  The better you train the better you will perform at the marathon.  I learned this the hard way.  I can think of so many areas where I could have trained better or prepared differently that would have helped me finish easier, but still I finished.

In personal finance you need to do your homework as well.  Doing just a little research before a big purchase can save you a lot.  Understanding the funds in your 401(k) can help you retire better.  The more you learn and prepare the more dividends you will see.

Success has many measures.

The NYC marathon had around 40,000 people running.  They were not all professional athletes.  They didn’t all run a marathon in 2:15.

But most were successful in finishing!

Each person’s goals was similar (finish) but different too (what time they finished in, how they felt/performed).

With personal finance your measure of success will be similar to many as well (wealth) but will be different in it’s specifics and how it’s achieved.

Don’t worry so much about what other people are doing.  Go after your own goals.

A marathon isn’t easy but neither are personal finances.  But both are worth pursuing and it’s possible to be successful in both if you put your mind to it!

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Published or updated August 21, 2016.


  1. WOW!

    That’s awesome man. Congrats on your success. It’s seriously inspiring!
    .-= Baker´s last blog ..Travel Hacking for Noobs: How We Save Hundreds on Airfare, Get Free Accommodation, & Make Money while Overseas =-.

  2. Congratulations! Double congrats: 1. For finishing the NYC Marathon and 2. For reaching a goal. Awesome.

    And thanks for the insight into personal finances.
    .-= Miranda´s last blog ..4 Home Improvements that Can Boost the Value of Your Home =-.

  3. Congrats man! Isn’t it awesome to have random strangers just cheer and cheer and cheer for you? It’s the same “high” we get in playing spectator sports. We do it for ourselves, our fans, and the love of the game.

    How do your knees feel btw? I can’t run too far at all b/c of my knees, which is ironic b/c i can play basketball and tennis all day long!


    .-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..Never Call In Sick On Friday, Slacker! =-.

    • I think it’s even more altruistic in the marathon than in sports. When you see a ballgame people associate with “their team.” With the marathon the people truly root for you without even knowing who you are. It truly is an amazing feeling.

      Interestingly, I usually get usual delayed onset soreness from long runs where my thighs mostly get sore. Same thing after the marathon and it wasn’t too bad. BUT, during the marathon my knees started to get stiff. Knees, and to some extent ankles, were real sore and stiff right after the marathon. I realize now the reason I couldn’t run faster toward the end – it’s hard to run fast when your legs no longer bend at the knees!

  4. Congrats on finishing a marathon – that really is a huge accomplishment!
    .-= Peter´s last blog ..The Great Big List Of 75 Budgeting Tools, Finance Softwares And Iphone Money Apps =-.

  5. Way to go! I’m truly impressed. I don’t think I could ever commit myself to running a marathon. It is quite a goal to have achieved. You should definitely celebrate!

    I agree with your comments about not judging a book by its cover. True wealth is not about being showy, popular or glamourous. It is about freedom and options.
    .-= Jeff@MySuperChargedLife´s last blog ..Win a Free iPod nano and Help a Great Charity! =-.

  6. Congrats on completing the marathon; that’s awesome!!
    .-= SingleGuyMoney´s last blog ..Involving your Family in Financial Planning and Saving for the Future =-.

  7. Fantastic job on the marathon and the post! I love your point on working past mistakes. It’s easy to be discouraged, but some great things happen when you push through.

  8. Fun analogy. Any exercise especially something huge like a marathon requires tons of commitment and focus. Glad to hear you pushed through, what a feat.

  9. Congrats! As someone who works in Brooklyn and drives over the Verrazano Bridge every day I give you props for just making it over the bridge without spraining an ankle in the potholes! I know I wouldn’t even make it over the bridge without collapsing!

  10. An amazing accomplishment! AMAZING
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..What is Intestacy? Don’t Let the State Determine Where your Assets Go! =-.

  11. Props to you, FFB. That’s great! How’d you find time to train?
    .-= PT´s last blog ..Love Them or Hate Them, Make the Most of Gift Cards this Holiday Season =-.

    • Well, I didn’t find enough time to train! Most of my runs were long runs I did on the weekend. I would wake up early and run.

  12. Awesome on completeing the marathon! I’ve been telling myself I’d like to do a triathalon, but I’ve got a long way to go before I get there. Really good analogy in comparing it to personal finance. I think it can be compared to a lot of other fulfilling but not easy things as well, it’s all about persistance.

  13. You are so right. Congratulations on completing the marathon. In everything we do it takes dedication. Once we dedicate ourselves to a task it will be complete whether it be building a small business for yourself or being debt free. All one has to do is take one small step at time and then the goal will be achieved.

  14. Awesome comparisons and all very much true for any challenge in life. I did the London Marathon in 2005 and completed but with big feet problems. I hope to do one again in the next few years and crush my time.

  15. Neat analogy Glen. Personal finance is definitely not a sprint. It’s a marathon that requires concentration and discipline.

    And congrats on completing a marathon at all…that’s quite an achievement!

  16. Great post! I went from couch to half marathon a few years ago, and it was an incredible high. I tried a marathon a year or so later, and discovered that the half marathon is my event. 🙂 But I can definitely understand the connection between a running goal and a money goal. When I was down about running, I kept thinking that it didn’t matter if I had a great run yesterday or would run tomorrow, I had to run TODAY. When I was feeling great about running, I kept thinking that yesterday’s run and tomorrow’s run didn’t matter, I could focus on TODAY! Money is the same way–if you made great decisions before, you still need to make good ones today. If you made bad choices in the past, you can make good ones today.

  17. Congrats – not just for completing a marathon, but for completing one that’s even tough to qualify for. Since my wife and I ran the Chicago HALF-marathon last year, I can relate to the way you tied the experience to personal finance. If you just take a slow and steady approach to doing the training, you’ll be able to complete a long run. If you just take a slow and steady approach to paying off debt, you’ll be able to get out of debt. As you said, though, you have to do the work even when you don’t want to.

  18. Great post! I definitely agree with you on don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I mistakenly took the marathon for granted and didn’t train property and got my ass kicked at mile 20. I’ve been a runner all my life. So my ego was hurt when my body locked up at mile 20 and this 70 year old man flew past me.

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