Ever struggled to make it to the gym after a long day at work? We’ve got some serious inspiration for you. At the Wall Street Decathlon, some of the country’s top finance execs are showing off the hard work they’ve put in after hours—and it’s all for a good cause.
The Wall Street Decathlon is a 10-event competition which fuses challenges from the Olympic Decathlon and the NFL Combine. Athletes tackle 400- and 800-meter runs, as well as a 40-yard dash, a football throw, pullups, dips, a bench-press challenge, and more performed with only short cool-downs in between. Wall Street execs in the competition include former players for the Cowboys and the Falcons, as well as captains from college teams at Harvard and Yale.
Need more proof that the competition is stiff? Jennifer Lidel, who won the women’s bracket last year, was a new hire at Standard & Poor. Just two weeks before the Decathlon she was competing in the USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Competition.
But the most impressive thing about the Decathlon isn’t the quality of the athletes—it’s what it supports. The event raises money for Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York’s premier cancer center. Since it began in 2011, the yearly event has raised more than $5 million towards pediatric cancer research at MSK. To donate, sponsors pledge a certain amount to athletes, and pay up depending on their performance. Organizers hope to raise another $2 million this year.
Last year’s men’s champion, Mark Rubin, is defending the title of “Wall Street’s Best Athlete.” Before beginning his finance career, he was a safety at Penn State. After graduation, he was signed with the St. Louis Rams and went on to spend time with the Vikings and the Buffalo Bills before deciding to focus full-time on getting his MBA. Last year, he won the Decathlon in the final leg of the 800-meter dash, beating Trafelete’s Jay Li by just one second.
We sat down with Rubin to talk about balancing a tough workout regime with an equally tough career. For him, it’s all about the lifestyle. An athlete from the very start, pushing his limits physically has always been just another part of the day.
“Having an active lifestyle was instilled in me at a young age, really from my family,” he says, citing time spent playing soccer, baseball and lacrosse, as well as competing in track and swimming. “And my sister was always into sports, so growing up I always looked up to her and tried to follow in her footsteps, in academics and athletics.”
Like athletics, Rubin says, Wall Street is results driven. The competitive environment of the industry draws many former athletes and fitness enthusiastes. Surrounded by people who are training for marathons and going on 50-mile bike rides after work, it’s easy to stay motivated.
“Being in the finance environment—a very competitive, very energetic, very outgoing environment—I think translates well to athletics. That’s what kind of initially drew me to finance, and that same characteristic keeps me active.”
When it comes to training for the Decathlon, Rubin said he had to make some small tweaks to his four-day-a-week weight lifting and running program. As the event approaches, he’s mixed in pullups, dips, and rowing to prepare for specific events.
“I mean it’s miserable. I don’t ever want to run an eight hundred again after this,” said Rubin. “But it really pushes you to expand your boundaries and work on other events that you might not always focus on.”
Rubin is always competing against himself, too—his post-Decathlon goals include upping his mileage and ultimately running a full marathon. But the best incentive to train harder?
“Obviously I enjoy the physical aspect,” he told us. “But it’s also about the cause and the goal, and knowing we’ve raised five million dollars already for pediatric cancer.”
Rubin pointed out that pretty much everyone has been affected by cancer, whether through family, a friend, or in your own personal battle. So when it comes to keeping it out of the lives of children and adolescents?
“That’s definitely something I want to be a part of.” To get involved or to donate, visit TheDecathlon.org.