Who’s your coach?

Many of my clients along with all of my family, friends and co-workers know that I’m a self-admitted long-distance running enthusiast.  As much as I try to limit droning on and on about distance running, it happens a lot.  Running is one of my greatest passions.   

I started training for the marathon after college graduation as a way to feed my competitive nature, since I no longer had organized sports to fill that void.  I ran my first full marathon in 2008 and I’ve averaged one per year over the subsequent 15 years.  For me, the process of putting a long-term goal on the calendar and chipping away at it one run at a time was immensely satisfying. 

In 2009, in my second attempt, I had a goal of running a Boston Marathon qualifying time.  At the time, the Boston Marathon qualifying standard for my age was 3:10:00.  I put in a ton of work and was on pace to meet that goal until the last mile of the 26.2 mile race, finishing in 3:11:27.  It was a tough pill to swallow.  In the years that followed, I failed to qualify 12 more times.  At the same time, the qualifying standard for the Boston Marathon for my age group was lowered to 3:05:00. 

I had access to endless articles, YouTube videos, blogs and podcasts on how to train and yet, my times stayed the same.  Even worse, every year I was a little bit older and running those same times seemed to require more and more work.  At the end of the race I would be completely gutted, barely able to walk.  I had accepted the reality that maybe I just was not a good enough athlete to qualify for Boston. 

In December of 2021, a fellow runner called me out.  “Who’s your coach?”  Coach?  For running?  Why in the world would I use a coach when all of the information that I needed to build a plan was right at my fingertips?  This friend was insistent that I needed a coach. 

I enlisted the help of a professional running coach.  She brought structure, perspective and common sense.  She held me accountable and she taught me how to successfully set a goal, map out a plan, and execute on that plan.  She squashed my doubts, knew when to push me and knew when to reign me in.  The week before the race I gave myself a 20-25% chance of qualifying, while she had no doubts. 

In a single training cycle she cut 24 minutes off of my previous marathon and at age 37, I ran 3:04:08 and felt better at the end of the race than I ever had before.  My eyes had been opened. 

Investors, like runners, have endless access to information.  It’s not uncommon for me to hear investors question why they would ever pay an advisor to do something that they could do themselves.  Some do-it-yourself investors are capable of building and executing a plan, while many are not.  Some runners who have been very successful are self-coached, while many are not. 

In the words of my runner friend, “who’s your coach”?

All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Christopher W. Frayne, CFA, CFP®