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What Can the New Marathon World Record Holder, Eliud Kipchoge, Teach Us About PREPARING FOR RETIREMENT?

If you haven’t heard yet, Eliud Kipchoge, a 33-year-old professional distance runner (the “Michael Jordan” of distance running) and Gold Medalist in the 2016 Olympics broke the official Marathon Record by over one minute running a 2:01:39.

If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.  It’ll make you want to get up out of your chair and go for a run!


As an avid endurance athlete and a financial planner, several questions came to mind as I pondered witnessing this historic achievement:

  1. How did he accomplish such an amazing feat?
  2. What can I learn from Eliud to help me improve, both personally and professionally?
  3. How can I apply these lessons and observations to help coach my client’s to and through their Retirement Finish Lines?


1. He had a clear Goal and Purpose for running the Berlin Marathon

The way in which Eliud selected this year’s Berlin Marathon was reminiscent of another historic accomplishment- the Wright Brothers’ first flight.  As David McCullough illustrated in his book, The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright conducted a thorough due diligence process prior to selecting Kitty Hawk, NC as their test flight location.  Like the Wright Brothers, Eliud Kipchoge conducted thorough due diligence before selecting the Berlin Marathon course for his world record attempt, because it had some key attributes:  a sanctioned marathon course, a fast course, a staggered start, and the race allowed for pace-setters. 

The point is that Eliud specifically chose this Finish Line of the Berlin Marathon for a specific purpose.

2. He ran his race, not his pace-setter’s race

One of the unique aspects, as aforementioned, is that the Berlin Marathon allows for pace-setters.  However, the designated pace-setters, wearing black & white striped race jerseys, must start with the competitor at the starting line, and must not join the competitor mid-race.

An observations made by one of the broadcasters stated that it was a tactical error, on the part of Team Kipchoge, for his three pace makers to drop out of the race and, therefore, unable to pace Kipchoge all the way to the finish line. 

I would argue that this was not a mistake and that Team Kipchoge carried out their plan as designed.  After all, this is a well prepared team.  Well financed and highly motivated.  Although his pace setters are world class marathoners, they do not compare to Eliud in speed and stamina.  Would a pace setter of less ability and with an unproven mindset throw Eliud’s rhythm off?  Given the fact that Eliud knew he was capable of running a WR because he had as part of Nike’s Breaking2 Project (although it was on an unofficial course), why would he risk not achieving his goal by running someone else’s race?

Kipchoge, under these given circumstances, knew his best shot would be running the final stretch on his own, without pace-setters.

3. He had an experienced long-term coach, whom he trusted

Eliud has been working with Patrick Sang, another world class Kenyan runner and coach since he was 16.  In fact, Eliud’s mother was Patrick’s kindergarten teacher and was a hometown hero from Kapsisiywa.  He was a steeplechaser at the University of Texas and won a Silver Medal in the 1992 Olympics.  Patrick Sang, Eliud’s trusted advisor, had been there and done that, as a long-distance runner.  He has been coaching Eliud since 2001.  A long-term relationship with a trusted coach. 

One of Patrick Sang’s key philosophies to training is “Slowly by slowly,” which means that to build fitness you need to take a very long-term approach- always giving the body enough time to rest and repair, never over-taxing the body for multiple training sessions.  Patrick saw Eliud’s talent as a teenager, and yet he knew as an experienced runner and coach, that it would take years for him to develop Eliud into the World Record Holder he now is.  If Eliud over-trained and succumbed to an overuse injury too often, then he would miss out on valuable training.  Therefore, less is more, or as the Kenyan’s say “Slowly by slowly.”  Consistency.  Discipline.A Long-Term Approach.

The same goes in the world of Personal Finance and Financial Planning.  Retirement Nest Eggs are built through years of saving (sacrificing today’s expenditures for a larger and more important financial goals).It is better to save a “comfortable” amount, early and consistently, when planning for a financial goal, instead of not planning and saving a large amount just prior to the financial goal, and therefore missing out on the “magical” power of dollar-cost averaging and compounding interest.  Consistency.  Discipline. A Long-Term Approach.

4. He developed a long-term plan and then lived out the daily habits to achieve it

Eliud is a man of immense self-discipline.  He simplified his philosophy by developing a simple formula:

Motivation + Discipline = Consistency

This formula demonstrates how to put your dreams into action!  A dream and a goal are great, but it is just the starting point.  The way you achieve success is though developing a plan to reach your goal and then developing an everyday habit and mindset to achieve that goal.  It requires focus, endurance, motivation, resourcefulness, and discipline. 

In my eBook, The Six Fundamentals to Being Financially Fit, I discuss how determining “Your Why” is an important aspect of goal setting.  It attaches a positive emotion and will provide motivation, when it is lacking, helping you break through self-imposed barriers.Discipline is the everyday mindset.  Developing a routine and a rhythm to achieve your goal.

Eliud comes from a family of farmers, so it is no surprise that one of his favorite quotes is, “The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is today.” 

Consistency and discipline are what matter most.  “Slowly by slowly.”  2:01:39.  How about sub-2?  

I hope that Eliud Kipchoge has inspired you the way he has inspired me.  

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