FIRE is a Marathon

A Marathon History

Legend has it that Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to spread word of the Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.    He ran the entire distance and busted into the assembly of the government, proclaimed, “Victory!” and promptly dropped dead on the scene.

Pheidippides proclaiming victory and dying. Marathoners always have flabby, flat butts.

Apparently, this distance between Marathon and Athens is precisely 26.2 miles.  Or so they claim… Seems like if you take 83 to E75 you can make it in 27.3 miles.  Close enough…

27.3 or 26.2 Miles, whatever, it’s a long way to run.

Regardless, this has been a right of passage for many folks.

Our Marathons

Yes, we’ve done marathons.  We’ve done two to be exact.  When we first met, we did a half marathon together.  Then we decided to do a full.  So, we trained and trained.  The first one didn’t go as well as we had hoped.  In the euphoria that came from accomplishing a difficult feat, we knew we could do better.

We trained and trained again, and did no better.  We finished the second marathon (and got engaged at the finish line 🙂 )

I’m a firm believer that the half marathon is the perfect distance, far enough you need to train for it, not far enough that it turns from fun to survival.   It keeps nagging at me in the back of my head to do another full, maybe even some sort of long distance Triathlon, but for the time being I’m happy with what I have done.

This whole path to FIRE seems eerily familiar. So, having done a couple of longer road races, I want to compare the two and see how they stack up.  They are very analogous in a way.

The FIRE Marathon

Training – 

Running – You’ve signed up.  You’re convinced this is a good idea.  You’ve done the research and got the gear.  You start running, gradually getting yourself up to the distance.

FIRE – You start reading blogs and digesting the information.  You sign up for accounts, set up auto deductions, and start your 401k and Roth IRA.  It takes a while, but you’re ready.

The Starting Line – 

Running- The anxiety starts.  You’re excited, and anxious at the same time.  You stretch and hope that all goes well.  The Gun goes of… BANG!!!

FIRE – You start contributing to those accounts you spent months setting up.  You’re excited to see what happens.

Mile 4 – 

Running – “Hey, I feel pretty good and am making progress” you tell yourself.  The miles are ticking off.

FIRE – “Wow, these balances aren’t zero anymore!”  This is going to be awesome and not nearly as hard as you originally thought.

Mile 8 – 

Running – “Ok, I’m hitting my stride” You still feel pretty good, but it’s starting to get a little uncomfortable.  You’re still making progress, so it’s not really that bad.

FIRE – “Hmmm… paying down this debt sure takes a chunk out of my pay check.”  You’re making progress, and seeing the numbers go up, but you’re starting to realize that you need to make more changes.

Mile 13.1 – 

Running – “Hey, I’m half way there.  I can do this.”  You still feel pretty good. You are officially closer to the finish line than the starting line.

FIRE – “Ok, I’ve made a good dent.”  You’re half way there.  Time to start redoing your phone plans, looking at your HSA’s, really start pulling back on your budget.

Mile 16 – 

Running – “WTF- I have 10 miles left?!?!” You’ve been running forever and still have 10 miles left??? These miles must be getting longer.

FIRE – “I have how many years left?” How do you keep going?  You want to just get there already.

Mile 20 –

Running – “My nipples are bleeding. My knees hurt. I think my toenails are falling off.”  Need I say more?

Ummm… Yeah…

FIRE – “Cutting back even more? This sucks!” No more cable; no more going out to dinner.  You even ride your bike to work.

Mile 24 – 

Running – “It’s been awful, but I WILL finish.” One foot in front of the other. Just settle in and embrace the pain.  You’ll be fine.

FIRE – “Our life is actually better now” You’ve made some drastic, painful cuts, but now you just continue.  You’re going to make it, it’s just a matter of time.

Mile 26  – 

Running – “Holy shit, I’m actually going to do this!”  You see the finish line.  You get a second wind, you don’t feel great, but the pain is fading and the crowd is cheering you through.

FIRE – “Holy shit, I’m actually going to do this!” You see it working. Your net worth is big enough that your passive income will cover your rent/mortgage, and more.

Finish – 26.2! – 

Running – “Wow, I actually did that.”  You finish.  Everything hurts, but you did it!!!  Reward yourself with a  milkshake and a huge plate of chicken wings, if that’s your thing (it worked for me!)

FIRE – “I Made it!!!”  You don’t have to work anymore.  You’re not beholden to anyone or anything.  You have complete freedom.  Have a milkshake… and some chicken wings ;).

Where are we?

We’re in the home stretch.  We’re probably somewhere between 20 – 23.

It’s feasible and we will make it happen. It’s only a matter of continuing what we’re doing now.  We’re still looking for ways to cut and still have some things that we splurge on, but we’re going to make it. Remember one foot in front of the other.

Where are you?  How do you stay motivated through the long slog?

22 Comments

  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials August 16, 2017 at 4:18 am

    I’m probably in like, mile 15. Just waiting, watching my account balances go up. I think though, that my side hustles are the equivalent to getting picked up on a moped and finishing the race. It’ll still take a while, but it will certainly be a faster pace!
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted…My 10 Year Plan: 2017 UpdateMy Profile

    Reply
    • Mr WoW August 16, 2017 at 9:31 pm

      Congrats on hitting mile 15! That’s fantastic!!! Ok Rosie Ruiz HAHA… Good for you, I hope it all works out for you. If you can get a shortcut, I say go for it!!!

      Tom Petty said it best:

      Reply
  • My Sons Father August 16, 2017 at 5:56 am

    Great analogy! Mentally I’m probably at mile 16, WTF am I doing? But financially I’m closer to mile 10, maybe the halfway point.

    Now I’m just hoping my nipples don’t start bleeding. Although, I think I’m doing FIRE wrong if my nipples start bleeding.
    My Sons Father recently posted…Best in Show Weekly Round Up – August 7-11My Profile

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    • Mr WoW August 16, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      Mile 16 sucks!!! it’s when you start seeing how much effort you’ve put in, but realize you still have a while to go. The pavement (or your money) doesn’t care how much effort you put in so far. It only knows how much is left. Gotta look at it that way. I only have X left. Forget the past… it’s a sunk cost.

      If you get bloody on your path to FIRE, please see a doctor… I know a great one… http://www.physicianonfire.com/

      Reply
  • Mrs. Picky Pincher August 16, 2017 at 6:07 am

    Is it possible to go backwards in a marathon? ;P We have our really great months where we can pay off a lot of debt, and other months where we got a little crazy. I guess it’s all about keeping your eyes on the finish line, no matter how far away it might be. It’s always worth running the race. 🙂
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…How To Stay Happy At WorkMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW August 16, 2017 at 9:25 pm

      HA!!!! Trust me. There were several points when we just wanted to turn back and head home. But you just keep at it and you’ll get there. It’s a great feeling when you start seeing the progress and start seeing it work. It’s really kind of amazing. And starting really is half of it.

      Reply
  • Dads Dollars Debts August 16, 2017 at 6:28 am

    Ha what a great analogy. Once I learned that the first marathon runner died I was out. Only half marathons for me. I think we are somewhere in mil 12-13 right now. Glad to see you guys have made such great progress.

    Reply
    • Mr WoW August 16, 2017 at 9:24 pm

      I think it’s alright to train for it. They have medical staff at every race, you’ll be ok right? I hope ;). Congrats on getting there. It’s a great accomplishment to make it that far!

      Reply
  • Mrs. Adventure Rich August 16, 2017 at 7:03 am

    Haha, I love this! I have run a few half marathons (never the full so far!) and I am also a believer that it is the perfect distance 🙂

    I think we are currently in the 13.1-16 mile range. We only have our mortgage debt (but that is a year old, so it’ll be a long haul…) and are saving in retirement accounts, but have a ways to go!
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…The Adventure Rich FIRE Prowess Score (Chain Gang!)My Profile

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    • Mr WoW August 16, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Congrats on being half way! That’s awesome… closer to the finish than the start. A half marathon is just about perfect. The full is definitely something to say that you’ve done. And it’s great to say that. It’s the actual doing part that is the not so fun part.

      Reply
  • Steveark August 16, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    I’ve run 15 marathons to date and can tell you the current distance is completely arbitrary. Marathons started out as 24.85 miles which was reckoned to be the original distance Phippy ran but in 1908 it was “adjusted” to 26 miles and 385 yards due to the layout of the race in London, the Queen’s seats and crowd control issues. Why do I feel like an obnoxious know it all now?

    Reply
    • Mr WoW August 16, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      I think it’s interesting. And if you’ve run 15 of them… then you should know the rightful history. Good for you!

      Reply
  • Mr. Need2save August 16, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    You had me at Marathon in the title and the featured image. Not up to 15 marathons yet like STEVEARK, but working on #4 which is set for this October.

    I’d say that we just passed mile 24. It’s no longer a matter of if, but when. Just like my Garmin says I ran more than 26.2 miles over the course of a marathon, we will probably run a bit longer than we really need to.

    BTW, I have had the issues mentioned in mile 20 – all three of them!
    Mr. Need2save recently posted…How To Mix & Match Your Retirement SavingsMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW August 16, 2017 at 9:20 pm

      #4 … hmmm is that MCM? That was the 2nd one that we’ve done. Congrats on being at mile 24. That’s Awesome! It’s nice to know if you just keep going you’ll get there. You start to realize it’s only a matter of time. It’s comforting in a way.

      Those issues were from first hand experience… HA!

      Reply
      • Mr. Need2save August 17, 2017 at 5:03 pm

        #1 was MCM. #4 is going to be Steamtown in Scranton, PA. If I’m feeling good I may also add Rehoboth in December.

        Our tax advantaged accounts (401k and IRA) are in great shape. It’s our brokerage accounts that are a bit behind. Need to accelerate those.
        Mr. Need2save recently posted…How To Mix & Match Your Retirement SavingsMy Profile

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        • Mr WoW August 18, 2017 at 6:20 am

          That good. Building in the gap years is a great plan. But you can always touch the principle from your Roth’s as well.

          When did you run the MCM? Pretty funny if we ran the same one, we ran it in 2013. Great race… very, very intense emotionally.

          Reply
          • Mrs.Need2Save August 19, 2017 at 6:49 am

            The Mrs. here. Mr.N2S is out training today (go figure). He did the MCM in 2011. It was indeed emotional. Me and the little ones used the metro to bounce all over DC so we could see him in different parts of the course. It’s a magical race that all marathoner’s should experience (I’m not one of them – way too long for me).

            I enjoyed your post and analogy, Mr. Wow!

          • Mr WoW August 19, 2017 at 12:50 pm

            Yes, I remember those days… the training takes over your life. Much like FIRE it permeates every aspect of your life. Our MCM was 2013, it was a super emotional race. The vets and families of vets are unbelievable. It’s really hard to put into words, and even now, just thinking about it gets me emotional. Our family did the same thing… hopped on the metro and met us around the city.

            Then of course, I attempted to drop to one knee at the finish line, only to have my leg cramp… HAHAHA so romantic!!

            You could do it. It’s only a matter of will power.

  • Mr. Groovy August 19, 2017 at 6:13 am

    Nice analogy, Mr WOW. The only difference is that once you finish your financial marathon nothing hurts. Everything feels great. We’re coming up on our first retirement anniversary. And I know this will sound strange, but the best part so far is Sunday night. Knowing that we don’t have to go to work on Monday is truly liberating. Looking forward to you and Mrs WOW crossing the finish line. You’re going to love retirement.

    Reply
    • Mr WoW August 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      Trust me… you aren’t looking forward to it nearly as much as we are :). I can see that. I’m actually starting to enjoy my new job, but there are still so many other things I would rather do with my day. Soon enough. We’ll get there.

      The weird part about the marathon is once you finish, you are so glad you did it. It sucks during the process, but it certainly is one of those great things to say you have done.

      Congrats on the 1 year!!! I can’t wait to get there.

      Reply
  • wendy August 22, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    Ack, I’m somewhere between mile 10 and 13… the finish line keeps moving!!!
    I’m one of those folks having a hard time figuring out the final target… I live in CA too (Bay area) but don’t plan on retiring here…I also currently help out some family financially, which should eventually pass… so the whole future expense thing is weird with lots of unknowns…
    As for the running part…while I have run a piddling 5k, I always feel that walking is more meditative (I’ve done the Komen 60mi walks)… so unless someone is chasing me with a chainsaw, I will just cheer all you runners on!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW August 22, 2017 at 10:35 pm

      There’s a certain amount of faith that’s required to make this work. Weird for me to say, as I’m not super religious.

      You know what they say… “how do you eat a whale?” “One bite at a time”

      Just gotta keep going. Small bit by small bit. Find yourself a goal that’s fairly close that you can reach in a month or two… then another and another, and soon enough you’re there. It worked for us during the marathons, “Just make it to the next water stop” I said that about 50x. It’s amazing… it really works!! Good Luck!!!

      Reply

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