Run your own race, one step at a time

Bolte Bridge, Melbourne

Last Sunday, on a beautiful sunny crisp morning, I ran 12.6km in a fun run – Run for the kids – an annual event that raises money for the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

As I type these words, it still seems surreal.

At the beginning of the year, I could not run 2km, let alone more than 10km.

But my very sore muscles can attest to the fact that I did. And I ran continuously which was my only goal. I didn’t care how long it took me or what my best time was etc etc. I just wanted to run the whole way without walking.

And I DID!!! I feel like a million dollars right now, haha! Not then – I could hardly walk in a straight line after I finished.

The last time I participated in this fun run was in 2015 when I was a lot better prepared, trained harder and four years younger. Since then, I have not participated in any fun runs at all.

As I ran, I reflected on the similarity between running and being on the FI journey.

Hey, I had to distract myself, ok? I don’t listen to podcasts or music or audio books when I run. I actually like the thinking time that running gives me.

My exercise history

Or lack thereof.

I have a love hate relationship with exercise – more on the hate side, if I am really being honest here.

As a child, I never ran around much. We shared a bike between my brother and I and he used it much more than me. I never participated in much sports either. I just liked lying around reading – many a time my mum would yell at me to stop being so lazy, haha! And guess what, nothing much has changed in adulthood.

When I turned 30, I thought that I should start exercising as I was now ‘old’ and I had better do something to stay healthy. I love my food, desserts in particular. And was carrying more weight compared to my high school years, when I was described as a stick. It, ahem, was certainly not an apt description of me anymore.

So I joined a gym. Attendance was sketchy. Once, I drove into the car park, sat in the car for 5 minutes then promptly reversed out again.

The benefits

Everyone: Endorphins, girl! You get a release of endorphins when you exercise, you feel good!

Me: Umm, no. I just feel pain, everywhere.

As a health professional, I know the benefits of exercise all too well. But still I am very resistant to exercising. 

Just like I knew it was a ‘good thing’ to manage my money well or to invest but did I do anything about it? Nope.

Knowing that something is good for you does not necessarily translate to taking action.

What stops me from running?

Excuses

It’s raining. It’s about to rain.

Too hot, too cold, too sunny, too humid.

It’s too dark in the morning, too dark in the evening.

I’m too tired, too stressed. I can’t be bothered.

There are too many hills where I live …

You name it – I’ve used it as an excuse not to run.

Limiting beliefs

I signed up for a personal trainer at the gym after I struggled with attendance. The first thing I told her was “I don’t run”. She replied that it didn’t matter and got me on the treadmill. Then slowly increased the speed till I couldn’t walk anymore – I was in effect, running!

What is stopping us from pursuing FI?

I am not smart enough for all this personal finance stuff.

Frugality is not for me – I enjoy the finer things in life.

I don’t know the first thing about investing.

I am too old to start.

How can I save when I have so much debt? It is impossible to pay off debt early and live a decent life at the same time.

I don’t earn enough.

And so on and on.

These are just excuses and limiting beliefs, no different to the ones I have for not running. We can learn how to manage our money. You don’t need a college or university degree to learn this.

The online FIRE community is truly awesome. There are literally thousands of blogs, podcasts, you tube and other resources. Find someone that resonates with you, your situation, your life experiences – believe me, you are not alone. Start your own blog, podcast, you tube channel if you can’t find a voice similar to yours.

You can do this!

Then I procrastinate

I just need to get over this stressful time at work, then I’ll start running.

I can’t possibly start a new project now – as it is, I don’t have enough time to do everything I need to survive.

It can wait …

In the meantime, I am getting more unfit and less motivated to start.

Same with my finances. I let myself drift along then all of a sudden, I am 47 years old and panicking that I will not have enough money saved to retire by 65.

So just start … and set a goal

On and off over the last 17 years, I dabbled with exercise …

I wasted so much money joining a gym and not cancelling the monthly membership fee when I wasn’t going. Because I always think that I’ll start again tomorrow, next week, next month.

Which is why I try to run these days. It doesn’t cost anything except for shoes. (my running gear is very dated but they fit me so … it’s not a fashion contest!)

After a long time not running or exercising, I started running round a football oval near my house in January. I started with alternating between walking one lap with running one lap then building up to running more than 20 laps.

I wasn’t always consistent. In fact, I hardly ran at all in February. But my friend and I enrolled in the Run For The Kids fun run so with the looming deadline, I had no choice but to get going again in March.

Having a deadline or goal gives me a kick up the backside. It makes taking action just that much more pressing, more urgent.

If I know I need to save $$$ by July for an upcoming trip away, it is much easier to start saving.

The start of the fun run

Run For The Kids 2019 … and we’re off!

The atmosphere is electric! I love that energy. There is a buzz in the air, the hum of nervous, excited chatter among the thousands waiting to start. We are grouped into different zones and start in waves at staggered times. I can hear runners quietly rehearsing their strategy; others bemoaning their fitness.

And then we are off …

There is a lot of excitement too when we first decide to pursue FI – we have been reading blogs and listening to podcasts – we are pretty pumped – let’s start. And there is that nervous, excited energy – is it going to work? Will we succeed?

The middle

The wind is in my hair … unfortunately it is blowing in the wrong direction.

I am running into a headwind, trudging up a never ending incline towards Bolte Bridge.

It feels like one step forward and half a step backwards.

But I am heading in the right direction, towards the finish line. I just can’t see the finish line yet. I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

Runners pushing prams run past me. This year, I did not see anyone with a child on their shoulders running past me – in the past, that is not an uncommon sight.

I tell myself – run at your own pace, you’ll be fine.

I look around. There are lots who are just walking. Mind you, some of the walkers walk faster than I was jogging. But there is a mixture of progress – some are absolutely speeding by, some are strolling. Some start running then walk then start running again.

When we are immersed in the FIRE community, we encounter many on different stages of their journey. Some are paying off debt; others have insane (to me) savings rate; some are negotiating higher pay while others are pursuing side hustles. Some have enormous amounts to invest while others are scraping by with an emergency fund.

There will always be some that are absolutely killing it while others are struggling. 

It can feel like everyone else is doing better than me. And sometimes it seems we take a step forward then half a step backwards. We finish paying off a loan then the car breaks down. Or our hours are cut when we were doing so well meeting our saving goals.

It is not a race – we are on this journey, OUR journey at our own pace, one step at a time. So long as we are going in the right direction, a little detour will not deflect us from our end goal of reaching financial independence and maybe retiring early.

The end is in sight

Once I run over the big hill and down the gentle slope, I think yeah, the worse is over. Then the steep little hills appear out of nowhere.

So again, I have to dig deep. I can see the little hills ahead in the distance. I psych up and move my arms so my legs will naturally follow. All the time thinking – a downhill is coming … when I can run effortlessly.

The end is nigh but the last one and a half kilometres feels so long – where, oh where is that finish line? This is when I just want to walk, to stop running.

Drummers and volunteers on the route are cheering us on, calling out encouragement to keep going, it’s only 3km, 2km, less than 1km to go .. you can do it.

I can see other runners who have completed the run – they are now walking back in the opposite direction. Ahhh … I still have to keep going.

And then there it is … the finish line … the relief … I can definitely stop running soon …

At long last, the end is in sight

I hear a voice near my right ear. Do you mind moving to the left please? A vision impaired athlete is coming up behind you.

I stagger to the left. A vision impaired woman running with a companion breezes past me to the finish line. That puts my achievement in perspective! It is challenging as it is running this course but to do it without being able to see is AMAZING!

There are always challenges, obstacles, setbacks and hills, some bigger and steeper than others throughout our FI journey. Being mentally prepared and financially prepared in the form of emergency funds, sinking funds help us face these challenges head on.

Having companions to run with us can keep us accountable and make the long journey fun. We need our FI tribe on the sidelines, cheering us on to the finish line. Learning from each other, helping others, encouraging one another sustain us in our journey.

But nothing and nobody can take action for us – we still have to do the running ourselves. We still have to take action ourselves to save that extra dollar, automate salary sacrificing, buy the less expensive brand and so on.

I am dreaming of that end point – when I can say … job well done, you can stop running now. You have sufficient passive income to cover your expenses for life – you are now financially independent.

Final thoughts

It takes me a few laps around the oval or at least 3km on the road before I find my rhythm. There is always a group of fit senior ladies walking round the oval at the same time – they never fail to laugh at my tomato red face. I just laugh with them, wave and keep going.

My goal is clear – I need to run continuously for 21, 22, 23 laps eventually being able to run 15km, 20km and hey presto, there may be a marathon in me after all. Just don’t tell my personal trainer.

Being on the FI journey is a lot like running. You may not be able to see the end destination yet but your goal is clear. And by taking one step after another, you will eventually arrive at your destination.

Just run your own race, one step at a time.

 

Are you running your FI journey at your own pace? Where are you on your journey – the start, the middle, the end?

Let me know in the comments below. And please subscribe to my email list – I would love to cheer you on to the finish line! 

 

10 Replies to “Run your own race, one step at a time”

  1. Congrats on getting through the fun run! Great comparison with FI. I know my red-faced self has struggled through running in the past and though it isn’t pretty, nor is the path to financial independence either at times. As long as you make progress, that’s the key.

    1. Thanks, Michelle! Well said – making progress is the key, be it running or path to financial independence!

  2. Funnily enough I ran a half marathon on the weekend, I do one a month!

    I feel like I’m at the midpoint of the run/journey at the moment. I’ve got a lot of the hard work done early, I’ve banked a bit of time/money so that if things need to slow down it’s fine, but there is still a lot of work to be done to get to the finish line!

  3. A half marathon a month! Wow!

    Congratulations on being at the midpoint! Got to celebrate all the milestones along the way … cheering you on

  4. Well done on the fun run!

    Like you, I have an aversion towards exercise – you’ll never find me at the gym. I do a ‘race’ of sorts though – every weekday I walk up and down 11 flights of stairs at work. Each floor is a milestone, and at floor 10, relief sets in – only one more to go!

    I like that you draw parallels between FI and a race. Sometimes it’s difficult on this journey to envision the end, because it seems so far away, but having milestones and celebrating progress definitely helps in the motivation department.

  5. Thank you! Glad I made it this year after a long absence 🙂 Your interval training is more consistent than mine – 11 flights, gosh – my thighs are already seizing up, haha

    We need all the encouragement and cheering on too on the road to FI – thank you for your reminder to celebrate progress and milestones!

  6. Wow! Congratulations on the fun run! I am very lazy with my physical fitness 🙁 It’s a good day for me if I walk for a kilometre! I haven’t been running in years – I did attempt the gym a couple of years ago and the longest I was able to run for before switching to walking was 2 minute bursts (with 5 minutes of walking in between). I was trying the couch to 5K program but I just couldn’t break past that ratio! Need to re-engage with this once coronavirus is over though… have packed on 15kg in the past 5 years and I really need to shift it off again.

  7. I am very lazy too! During this coronavirus pandemic, I have reverted to my indoor activities instead of being outdoors and consequently is now very unfit. I am walking at the moment, rather than running … I will run again, someday. I love couch to 5k but right now, am just not very motivated.

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