Running my first Comrades a month after my first child was born wasn’t exactly how I would have planned things but, as we all know, life sometimes runs to its own schedule.
With my daughter's arrival, all other things took a back seat and little else seemed to matter at all. At times like these, it is often surprising how ‘normal life’ just carries on ticking along. It felt like one day I was cradling my new-born baby and the next I was lacing up my running shoes on a cool June morning in Pietermaritzburg.
Adjusting to life as a new parent left almost no time to train in the last month before the Comrades, but I continued with my plan to run the race largely because I had put in a lot of serious early training. That turned out to be a good call (putting in all the early work, that is, running the Comrades is another thing altogether).
I had trained consistently from the beginning of the year right up to 1 May 2018, three days before my daughter was born. So, with almost no running between 1 May 2018 and 10 June 2018, I decided to attempt the Comrades. On the day, I finished in 10:19 hrs, not a disappointing performance at all.
It is always satisfying when your experience aligns with your beliefs and this is a great example of that. The best efforts usually start early, and steady and sustained work is often the best way to meet long-term goals. Despite next to no training in the five weeks leading up to the race, I think it was the early preparation that saved me on the day.
So it is with saving for retirement, where contributions made in the final stretch to retirement day are almost insignificant compared with the contributions saved in early working years. If you are going to take your foot off the pedal any time do so at the end, as it will cause the least damage then.
Thanks to the power of compounding, where your investment return increases exponentially as you earn a return on your returns, money saved in the early years works the hardest.
Over a diligent 40-year savings plan, the first two years’ contributions will pay for 10% of your retirement. By the time you hit 35 (after 11 years of saving), you have already funded almost half your pension. By contrast, the last 10 years’ contributions make up only 10% of your pension.
Time really is money in the context of compounding returns. If you leave it too late, it becomes very difficult to make up the shortfall. You should save like crazy early on, because those savings will work the hardest for you, kind of like I did, training hard many months before the run. If you want to skip 10 years of saving, skip the final 10 years of your working life, definitely not the first 10.