Investment lessons from Bruce Fordyce, King of the Comrades

Investment Lessons from Bruce Fordyce, King of the Comrades

May 25 2015 14:21

Independent Financial Advisor Alec Riddle ran in 3 Comrades Marathons, finishing 21st on debut in 1988 in 6 hrs 05 min. In 1991 Alec hit the ‘wall’ at 75km and it was Fordyce who ensured he didn’t quit and they finished together in just under 7 hours. 6 hrs 57 min. Riddle says that over the years he and Fordyce became good friends and that he learnt a number of important lessons from Bruce, who was his running coach at the 1985 London to Paris Triathlon. “I have narrated the Bruce Fordyce story to every single one of my clients over the past 10+ years and it helps them to stay committed to their plan,” says Riddle. Amazingly not one client deviated from their plan during the 2008 financial crisis. – Caitlin Hogg
By Alec Riddle*
Bruce Fordyce will probably go down in history as the greatest Comrades runner of all time, having won the KZN classic a record 9 times! As Investors we can all learn a great deal from his approach to racing the Comrades Marathon.Fordyce was a master at running his own race and we rarely saw him take the lead until late in the race. Fordyce’s trump card was not his endurance, his lung capacity, or his ability to run effortlessly up Polly Shorts, it was his incredible self-discipline and ability to stick to his plan, irrespective of what was going on around him.

Think back to Fordyce’s glory days in the 80’s and imagine that Bruce had set down with his support team to plan his training and his race. We assume that Fordyce’s goal was to average 3 minutes and 45 seconds per kilometer, in an attempt to break the course record.

As each race started,  the ‘TV glory runners’ hurtled off into the distance, only to be overtaken by Fordyce’s opponents, many of whom were seen as major contenders.

Fordyce had developed a Plan, for which he was well prepared and he knew that if he stuck to and executed his plan he would almost certainly achieve his goals. Thus, it did not matter to him how well, or how poorly, his opponents were faring, be it on the ups, the flats or the downs, as he was in the race for the long haul and to achieve his personal goal of winning the race.

Investors also need to realize that if they, in consultation with a Professional Financial Planner, have developed a Financial Plan based upon sound fundamentals, then they need to stick to their plan. An investor should not be distracted by what others are achieving in their investment portfolios and should definitely not allow their emotions to sway them from their goals.

Imagine Bob switched on the TV, as Fordyce was running down Cowies Hill, en route from Durban to PMB (Up Run). While Fordyce needed to average 3:45 per km to break the record, he may very well have been running close to 3 min 15 per km on this downhill stretch and a rookie commentator could well have said, “Fordyce is way ahead of record pace!”

Based upon this narrow view of the race, you awaken your wife and encourage her to come and watch, at which stage Fordyce is now running up Fields Hill at 5:30/km. A different commentator is heard to say, “Fordyce is way off record pace”, at which stage your wife decides it’s time to go back to bed.

These narrow views, or snapshots, nor the performances of his peers, did not sway Fordyce into changing his tactics and investors could well take a leaf out of Fordyce’s book and stick to their plans. Fordyce had tunnel vision while racing and was able to ignore the noise, or the distractions that came from his opponents tactics, the throngs of spectators and the TV cameras.

The longer Fordyce stuck to his Plan, the greater his chance of success, winning the world’s greatest ultra-marathon 9 times in a row. Likewise, you need to remain committed to your plan and your designated investment strategy, if you are to achieve your Lifestyle or Retirement Goals.

For Fordyce to win the race and achieve his goal, he had to endure some ‘pain’, the pain of those tough hills (Fields Hill, Botha’s Hill and Polly Shorts). If you are to achieve your goals of Real Returns, you too may have to endure some ‘pain’, such as short term market volatility.