Marathoning Through Life: Lloyd Shelton

Goals are achieved by addressing flaws and committing to overcoming them.

Lloyd Shelton, CPA, and shareholder at Borland Benefield, has followed this guiding principle throughout his life. From his younger years to his time as a young CPA to his life-changing push into marathon running, Lloyd achieved his goals thanks to his humility and desire to better himself.

Shortly after graduation from the University of Alabama in 1984 with an undergraduate degree in Accounting, he explored a year in Law School but decided legal life didn’t blend with his personality. In 1985 Lloyd put his accounting degree to use and began his professional career at Arthur Anderson. He spent four years with that Big Eight firm before joining Lovoy & Summerville in 1989. It turned out to be a fortuitous career move. In November of 1994, Lloyd took advantage of the opportunity to buy into the firm, changing its name to Lovoy, Summerville & Shelton. 

Never Too Old to Learn

It takes a lot of discipline and mental fortitude to run a marathon. But before Lloyd learned how to persevere through that challenge, he learned how to shape himself by observing others.

“There was a member of my local church when I was growing up, Glenn Estess, Sr. … When I was a teenager, Mr. Estess always took the time to talk to me. He would look me in the eye and shake my hand,” Lloyd recalls with a tear in his eye. “You know that you mattered to him. He invested in me. You could tell he cared.”

Mr. Estess’ commitment to Lloyd and other young people at the church inspired Lloyd to appreciate people and their unique mindsets as he grew into adulthood.

Sleeping in the Shade of Trees We Didn’t Plant

Lloyd is the first to admit that his success is due to those who came before him. As Borland Benefield crosses the century mark this year, it’s more apparent than ever. “I was fortunate to work with great people like Steve Lovoy, John Wilson, and others who have impacted my career. “I’m sleeping in the shade of trees I didn’t plant. I didn’t personally know Mr. Borland or Mr. Benefield, but I am certainly a benefactor of the work they have done.” I was fortunate enough to know Steve Lovoy and Roy Summerville, and they helped me tremendously.”

These fortuitous friendships have not been lost on Lloyd Shelton. He goes out of his way to pay it forward and mentor young professionals at the firm. 

He encourages the team to go out to lunch often or even when brown-bagging it to put down their phones and share a conversation. Sometimes those conversations are about work. But it’s more about the human connection that Lloyd values so much in his life and is a quality he wants to share with others. 

Another unexpected moment of connection led to the merger of Lovoy, Summerville & Shelton with Borland Benefield. Lloyd was pumping gas at a station in Mountain Brook when he bumped into John Wilson, managing partner at Borland Benefield. They knew each other through their work at the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce. After the usual small talk, they agreed to catch up over coffee. That’s where they hatched the idea of merging the two firms, effectively doubling the size of Borland Benefield with the stroke of a pen.

“I love where I’m at now, here at Borland Benefield,” Lloyd said. “A big part of where I am in life comes from my eagerness to learn. I’m no master. I’m not perfect. I just keep observing people and improving myself through their examples.”

Unfortunately, improving himself meant that Lloyd needed to face some hard truths.

Running for His Life

“I was just south of 300 pounds in 2010,” Lloyd said. “I’m Type 2 Diabetic. I walked up my driveway – a length of some twenty to thirty feet – and I got winded. The universe made it pretty clear that I needed to make some changes.”

Lloyd and his wife, Sarah, decided some routine walking couldn’t hurt. They visited Fleet Feet to buy some walking shoes. “I was at the checkout and saw a flier for a half marathon,” Lloyd remembered. “I had never heard of that, so me and the store employees got to talking. I ended up with a lot of information I didn’t think I’d use and a flier that was probably destined for the trash.”

But that flier never ended up in the trash. Lloyd took the advice of others and set his sights on completing a half marathon.

The journey took two years of training, two years of reshaping his diet, two years of learning from the other veteran runners in his running group.

All of his hard work paid off. Lloyd completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville half marathon in April of 2012. More half marathons followed, with Lloyd setting a goal of at least one half marathon a year. He plans to run in every state that’s in the SEC.

The Real Deal

What does someone with Lloyd’s drive shoot for after half marathons? Full marathons, of course.

But Lloyd knew that simply running a little longer every day wouldn’t prepare him for something so extreme. He wasn’t above admitting that he needed guidance, so he joined Resolute Running, a training group for anyone getting into the running scene.

“Marathon running isn’t just a more intense half marathon,” Lloyd explained. “I essentially needed to rebuild myself to get through something like that. I learned that I needed to eat this many calories each day for a month before my marathon and that my body fat percentage should be at a certain level two weeks before. I never would’ve figured all that out on my own, so I’m glad I’ve never been shy about asking for help.”

What’s Given, What’s Earned

His first full marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, took place in Washington D.C. in 2016. For the average runner, marathons aren’t about the run times. Marathons are about conquering a seemingly-insurmountable challenge. Surprisingly, overcoming that challenge allowed Lloyd to give back as well, and every race has revealed some moment of humanity that goes beyond the race.

During the half-marathon in Nashville, a participant passed Lloyd pushing an empty stroller. He learned later that the marathon was for the benefit of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. That runner was pushing an empty stroller for the memory of all the lost children.

“There’s a section in the Marine Corps Marathon,” Lloyd remembered, “called the Blue Mile. I was running along a section of the Potomac River, and I realized there were no people around, just photos of soldiers who died in the line of duty. Then I got through that section and started seeing the families of those soldiers cheering me on.”

Running gives time for thought. And as Lloyd ran, he wondered, “Why would these families care about my running? The fallen soldiers’ sacrifices were far more important than this marathon. Why would these families cheer me on?”

Only later did he realize the why. They were proud of him for putting in the time, effort, and energy to do something so extreme. They were proud of his progress. They were proud of his commitment, not unlike the commitment it takes to become a Marine.

A year after the Marine Corps Marathon, Lloyd ran in the TCS New York City Marathon in 2017 and countless half marathons since.

Moving Ever Onward

2022 marks Lloyd’s tenth anniversary of marathon running. Since that first half marathon in 2012, Lloyd has persevered through dozens of races. But he’s not done yet.

The TCS New York City Marathon returns in November, a fitting capstone to a decade of practice and perseverance. Lloyd is in the lottery for a position in the race.

“It just feels needed,” Lloyd said. “I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve passed on a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m done doing it either. I’ll never be too old to set new goals for myself. I just hope what I’m doing drives others to push on as well.” We would all do well to remember Lloyd’s outlook on life. 

“Running a marathon is every bit as much a mental exercise as it is physical. Your mind will tell you to quit, but what it teaches you about mental discipline is important.” It’s little wonder Lloyd urged two teams of five runners from Borland Benefield to participate in a relay as part of the most recent Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham. It taught the team-members valuable lessons in mental strength.

What has running taught Lloyd about life? It’s a marathon, and if you want to make it, you have to make plans. Whether it’s crossing the finish line in under 5 hours or successfully merging two accounting firms. You have to set goals and make a plan, then have the discipline to execute the plan.

“Accounting and CPA is what I do, not who I am.” And what he is he brought to his career. Not only did he build on the history of Borland Benefield, he’s become an integral part of its story.

Steady. Accurate. Consistent.

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