Half Marathons and Mortgages

What do half marathons and mortgages have in common?

They both suck!

Okay okay, fine, I’ll be relatively serious.  Half marathons and mortgages are both endurance events that take time, dedication and discipline.  I recently ran my third Half Marathon, which afforded me plenty of time to ponder this topic as I pounded the pavement.

Goals and Planning

Let’s start with the basics.  Both Half Marathons and Mortgages have a goal.

Half Marathon = Cross the Finish Line

  • Personal add-on: Under 1 hour and 45 minutes

Mortgage = Pay the Mortgage in Full

  • Personal add-on: Before our son graduates high school

Sounds simple, right?  Weeeell, it typically takes more that just a goal to cross the half marathon finish line or send that last mortgage payment over to the bank (unless you are a rockstar and can effortlessly run 13.1 on a whim or pay cash for your house… for the purposes of this blog post, I am ignoring these scenarios!).  The next major component after the goal is the plan.  And here is where I find quite a few parallels between a half marathon and a mortgage!

No “Speeding Up” to Finish Early

Unlike my first two half marathons, I worked with a coach and trained for this half by logging minutes, not miles.  Instead of lacing up my shoes to go run 3, 5 or 11 miles, I would embark on a 40 minute, 60 minute or 100 minute run.  This seemingly minor change had a big psychological impact on my training and made me focus more on training properly and with discipline.  If I was scheduled for a 45 minute “relaxed run”, there was no use trying to speed up to finish early (45 minutes still takes the same amount of time regardless of your pace…).  Instead, I was free to focus on the effort I was scheduled to put in on that given day.  My hard days were hard, my relaxed days were relaxed, and my easy days were easy with the goal of reducing my risk of overtraining or running myself to injury.

Mr AR and I have a 30 year fixed rate mortgage with an interest rate of 3.5%.  We currently pay a little extra each month in order to put us on track to pay off the mortgage during our son’s Senior year of high school/before college costs.  Now, I don’t like seeing a number in the debt column of our Net Worth sheet, especially a number as “large” as our mortgage (it’s not really that large, but it’s a lot to me!).  But I know that with an interest rate as low as 3.5%, paying off the mortgage at the pace we have selected and investing the excess income is a wise move.  So while I could “speed up” our payoff, I know that our finances will be healthier and have a higher chance of remaining “injury/emergency free” by sticking to the defined pace.

Time and Dedication

Training for a half marathon is a big-time commitment.  I seem to conveniently forget that fact until after I register and pay the $90 entry fee.  During my recent training, I ran anywhere from 30 minutes to 110 minutes per day, 4-5 days a week for 12 weeks.  And those runs that clocked over 75 minutes seemed soooo long.  Minute after minute, mile after mile, week after week, I pounded the pavement all with the goal of preparing for the culmination, the Half Marathon itself.  Week 1 was exciting… here I go!  But by Week 3 or 4, I hit my first training bump… I started losing momentum, had a bad run or two, and wondered “Why the hell do I voluntarily put myself through this????”  This is precisely when I had to dig deep and remind myself of the goal.  “Hey self!  Remember the electric thrill of joining thousands of runners at the start line?  What about the extra boost you received from the spectators cheering you on and handing out beer while you ran (true story…*)?  Or that sense of accomplishment you felt when you crossed the finish line?  And do I need to mention the fact that you are working towards a PR this time around???”  With that inner dialog complete, I would grit my teeth, pick up my heels and churn my legs a bit more quickly.

While Mr. AR and I are still in “Week 1” of our mortgage (about 8 months in), I know that this excitement of seeing the payment bite off a chunk of principal each month will eventually wear off.  I anticipate that we may hit a few “training bumps” along the way when we will ask ourselves if the benefits of our extra payments (or any payments at all!) are really worth it.  The thrill will wear off, the years will drag on, and we will STILL have a mortgage.  But I plan to combat these doubts just as I combated the race doubts.  “Hey self!  Look around… look at this sturdy house and the beautiful piece of paradise it sits on.  Imagine the day you make that last mortgage payment… when you will own your home free and clear!  How good will that feel?  What a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that will provide!”

Sticking to the Plan

While my training plan allowed for some flexibility so I could juggle running days with schedules and weather patterns, I still had to keep to it.  There was no cheating, no skipping out.  Any significant alterations to the plan only put me at risk of injury, fatigue, or ill preparation and ultimately cheated me out of the race I owed myself.  When I signed up, I set a reasonable goal.  I wanted to race a personal record (PR).  My fastest half marathon (1 hour 52 minutes) was raced while 6 weeks pregnant with AR Junior, so I figured I had a pretty good shot at beating that time.  But I needed a plan and I needed to stick to it.  No short cuts and no cheating myself.

Yet again, Mr. AR and I have to stick to our mortgage payoff plan in two ways. On one side, we need to actually pay the mortgage each month!  No losing momentum and skipping a payment.  This would lead to a hit on our credit score, an angry mortgage lender and a collection agency if we really let it go!   On the flip side- we need to stick to our plan of only paying off what we are currently scheduled to pay (the payment + a little extra principal each month).  Yes, we could speed up and bite a larger chunk off, but this will only limit our ability to invest in more lucrative vehicles (index funds or real estate).  Either way, by working within our plan, we avoid the pitfalls that would readily greet us should we deviate from the plan.

Ramp Up

This one is fun, I promise!  Despite the literal blood, sweat, and tears of training for an endurance race, there are also a few exciting perks along the way.  Once I crested the Week 3-4 “training bump”, I picked up momentum.  I started to effortlessly clock impressive paces, miles flew by, and I became a bit leaner and toned.  My hard work was paying off!  This momentum began to build more dramatically as race day crept closer and I amazed myself with the ground I had covered (no pun intended) in a mere 12 weeks.

As the months fly by, our mortgage payments start to look a little different.  The interest portion is smaller, the principal payment is larger, and the overall balance starts to whittle down at a more rapid pace!  Now, while we currently gain a measly $2 extra in principal payment each month, I know this will ramp up and will start to really accelerate the closer we get to our payoff day.  And I can’t wait!

Always and Adventure,
Mrs. Adventure Rich