In 2007, Kristin DeClark ran two ultramarathons
: one 34-miles long, the other 50 miles up a ski hill in Vermont — an 8,000-foot elevation change — with water stops only every eight miles.
That race took DeClark, who was a vice-president at Credit Suisse at the time, more than 11 hours to complete, and only one of the six people she trained with beforehand finished.
But the real challenge for the up-and-coming investment banker that year was finding time amidst her demanding work schedule to train for the gruelling races.
The solution: She signed up for regular marathons or half marathons every other weekend as “training races,” and ran 15-20 miles on her “off” days.
DeClark is now Deutsche Bank’s head of tech equity capital markets and a mother of two with a third child on the way. Though she says she has “only done a couple of marathons since having kids,” she still regularly finds time to run long-distances, and plans to compete in another marathon within six months of having her next baby.
“Every day I try to figure out a time that I could run, and if I try every day then I’ll end up with three to four times a week that I’ll be able to run,” the San Francisco-based banker, who has worked on the initial public offerings of Fitbit, NetSuite, Square, and GoDaddy, told Business Insider.
Jackie Gordon, Deutsche Bank’s cohead of media investment banking, who is currently training for the 120-mile Transrockies Run in Colorado, takes a similar tack when it comes to training.
Gordon — who has advised on TPG’s acquisition of Cirque du Soleil, WME and Silver Lake’s deal for IMG, and Charter Communications’ recent takeover of Time Warner Cable — is often on the road, travelling between London, Los Angeles, and New York, where she is based, on a weekly basis.
“As a banker you don’t have much time,” Gordon told Business Insider. “If you’re going to do a lot of running, you haven’t got enough time for social activity, so I try to weave my social life and my running together so I can get the best of both worlds.”
She often runs with a group that goes out for 4-6 hours on Saturdays and 3-4 hours on Sundays. The group trained together for Gordon’s first ultramarathon — the Comrades Marathon, a gruelling 55-mile race in South Africa — which they ran in 2011.
Competitive by nature
It’s not hard to spot the banker in both DeClark and Gordon, even when they’re not discussing work. The same qualities that help them succeed at the office — hyper-organisation, dedication, and a healthy dose of competitiveness — are present in their running careers too.
“Ultra-running is not like regular marathoning,” Gordon said. “There’s no one else crazy enough to be doing a five or six-hour run in 91 degree weather; you can’t rely on that guy in front of you to motivate you. That motivation really has to come from within.”
She also thinks about the mergers and acquisitions process as a marathon rather than a sprint because of the patience and calculation that goes into each transaction. Just like when she’s working on a deal, when Gordon is training, she’s constantly calculating when to go harder, when to pull back, and how to read the situation.
She said the sense of accomplishment after a long, challenging run is really an empowering feeling.
DeClark, for her part, is exhilirated by the sense of competition that comes with running. She started competing in 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer races at the age of 9 and later ran track and cross-country at the University of Virginia. She’s since run more than 25 marathons.
“I’m incredibly competitive, as is everyone in this industry, but I find that even if I’m out for a 4- or 6-mile run with my pregnant stomach, I don’t like anyone to pass me,” she said. That, she added, is also true of her professional career.
Both Gordon and DeClark live by one essential rule: Always bring your running shoes with you wherever you go. That way they can squeeze in runs between meetings on a business trip, or at the end of the work day before heading home to unwind.
“Running, the thing I love about it is you can explore different cities, you don’t need a lot of equipment — you really just need your running shoes,” DeClark said.
That said, she is realistic about the limitations on her time.
“I don’t have a career or a family where I can run six days a week and train super hard for a marathon right now, but I can still get in shape running four days a week,” she said.
When training for a marathon, DeClark typically wakes up on weekends an hour earlier than normal and aims to run 12 or 15 miles instead of her usual four or six.
To help balance her commitments, she uses phone apps to outsource everything from buying groceries to doing laundry to house cleaning, in order to ensure the time she spends with her family is really quality time, rather than chores.
She also incorporates running into her family time — often she’ll set out on foot with her husband on his bicycle and their two children in a stroller.
Gordon, meanwhile, sees ultrarunning as a counterbalance to her hectic banker’s lifestyle.
“It gives me time to find a sense of calm and balance, especially the long distance,” she said. “If you’re running five hours, you have to get into the zone and find your zen, this place that you find a state of comfort and peace. I think it’s a very healthy way to combat the pressures of the business that we’re in.”
Running can also be incorporated into the professional life. DeClark, for example, will sometimes go for a run with clients at conferences rather than, say, getting a coffee or drink with them. She said it’s a much more memorable experience for both sides.
The qualities that drive Gordon and DeClark when training are also must-haves for young women building careers on Wall Street, the bankers said.
Gordon emphasised the importance of stepping out of one’s comfort zone when starting out in finance.
“It’s kind of like ultrarunning: when I used to watch Comrades, I thought that was the most insurmountable race — I wouldn’t even think that I would be able to do it,” she said. “After having trained for it, yes it was challenging, but not insurmountable.”
She said the same goes in the workplace.
“While at first something might seem like an insurmountable task, or beyond your grasp, stepping up and having courage in your knowledge, the team around you, most importantly in yourself, to take on challenges and step up into opportunities is probably the piece of advice that I’d give to women.”
DeClark noted that, for young women on Wall Street, hard work is often not enough. You also have to put yourself out there.
“I’ll see younger women think, ‘OK, I bent my head down, I’m doing my job, I’m doing everything I need to do and that’s enough,'” she said. “Oftentimes it’s not. You have to build a relationship with the people that are managing you until they have a vested interest in your career. The best way to do that is to have an ongoing dialogue with them so they know what you’re working on.”
And, the bankers said, in order to be successful, you have to be truly passionate about what you do — be that at work or on the running trails.
“You really have to love running in order to do it for so long,” Gordon said. “It’s kind of like this job, you know, you can wake up one morning and you think you’ve got an easy day, and your day blows up, or a deal dies, and you’ve really got to love what you do in order to stay in this business.”
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