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Great Racer, Great Runner

It's the early 1950's.

John Landy (Australia) and Roger Bannister (England) are getting closer-and-closer to running one-mile in under four minutes.

It will be the first time in history that it's been accomplished.

John Landy

Associated Press

Each time either of them races...onlookers know that history might be made.

Finally it happens in 1954.

Bannister broke the barrier in May (3:59, in Oxford, England). Landy wasn't there.

Then Landy broke that a month later, in June (3:57, in Turku, Finland). Bannister wasn't there.

And then finally they raced against each other in Canada, in August. At that point they were the only two to have broken the four-minute barrier...

They both broke it again, together.

The times?

Bannister: 3:58
Landy: 3:59

You could have looked at either man, and thought that's a great racer.

Getty Image

John Landy died last week, at the age of 91.

Here is my favorite part...

Critics said Landy was a runner and not a racer, more interested in running fast than in winning races. He did not argue the point. "I would rather be beat in 3:58 than win in 4:10," he said.

And with just this statement, we realize something special about Landy's psyche.

First Place ≠ First Priority

Is there anything less obvious when watching competitive runners?

Would any onlooker at the finish line ever have imagined that to be the case?

It's probably because he knew how it felt to race, and he knew how it felt to run.

What John Landy knew, that I observe so many investors never take the time to consider, is simply the reason why he is doing what he is doing.

Why invest?

If your answer is something like, "so that I can retire comfortably someday," then I would urge you to dig deeper.

What does retirement look like? What does comfort look like?

What does someday look like?

Thankfully, most people can easily refine more generic statements about why they invest.

Identify what fortune looks like.

Fortune is not a high investment account balance. But people chase big numbers.

Fortune is not being frustrated because other people have more money than you. But people experience this frustration.

Fortune is not outperforming the S&P 500 index. But people chase this benchmark.

John Landy had his own benchmark, informed by what he cares about, while so many of us use benchmarks informed by our egos, or because other people tell us to use them.

Integrating your ideal fortune as the foundation for your investment plan will stop you from racing in an event against others, when you could be running with yourself.

Most often, fortune looks like this: leveraging your time, money, and energy, as tools to design days and years experiencing unconstrained happiness.

Per Brian Portnoy, a behavioral finance expert: true wealth is funded contentment.

And that's achieved through identifying what is nourishing to you, what an enriched life looks like, and then using a holistic financial plan to engineer it.

When it comes to financial planning inputs, asking yourself "What's a perfect day look like to me?" is more important than inflation expectations and stock market returns.

Great days are the goal, and therefore should be the benchmark.

A couple years after initially breaking the four-minute barrier, during a race in Australia, Landy attempted to sidestep a fallen runner. In doing so, he accidentally scraped the runner's shoulder with his spikes.

Photographer Unknown

Landy stopped racing, turned around to see if the fallen runner was okay, and he told Landy that he was fine, and that he should keep going.

So Landy did turn back around, made up the sixty yards he'd lost in stopping, and beat everyone to the finish.

Gordon Moyes, an Australian minister who was there, later called it “the most incredibly stupid, beautiful, foolish, gentlemanly act I have ever seen.”

The time?

Landy: 4:04.

He was asked why he sacrificed the race by turning around to help out. His response?

You don't ask why.

John Landy. That's a great runner.



My blog posts are informational only and should not be construed as personalized investment advice. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in my posts will come to pass. They are not intended to supply tax or legal advice and there is no solicitation to buy or sell securities or engage in a particular investment strategy.

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