A week ago, over 50,000 runners descended upon New York City for the privilege of participating in the world’s biggest and most popular marathon in the world. I can come up with a million reasons why the race is amazing. You don’t have to be a runner to admire Meb Keflizighi, who, at 40, continues to impress the world by breaking the U.S. Masters Record at this year’s #nycmarathon. The Staten Island start is unforgettable and simply takes your breath away. As you make your way over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the first of five bridges in the marathon, you push your way through five boroughs (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx), to the spectacular finish in Central Park. You can’t help but feel the experience is about something bigger than yourself and that, by doing it, you can do anything.
It’s even more incredible knowing that the NYC marathon generates millions of dollars every year to charity.
But the real beauty of the New York City Marathon is that it’s not just for the elite and qualifying runners. It’s for everyone. Everyone, and anyone, who has the guts, the ability, the desire, and the determination to do it. The exact kind of desire and determination you need if you are considering law school.
Two WMU-Cooley graduates, and colleagues, made the commitment this year to run New York. Professor Karen Fultz and Tampa Bay Campus Director Dionnie Wynter shook hands, entered the lottery, got in , then made the commitment to go the distance, together, no matter what. Both women have a tremendous amount in common, including their love for the sport of running. New York was number five for both of them.
Here are five ways I think going to law school is very much like running the New York City Marathon:
1) You have to really want it. It takes too much determination and dedication to make the 26.2 miles to the finish line – or to make it to Graduation Day. For a marathon, you need to choose a training plan. Committing to that plan is crucial for marathon success. It is easy to get caught up looking at what others are doing and what they are trying to accomplish. Success, whether its running the NYC Marathon, or doing well in law school, stem from you, your goals and, ultimately, your hard work.
2) Having a running (or study) buddy is the best and fastest road to success and life-long friendships. Karen and Dionnie met years ago and both hold each other accountable for training runs. In law school, it will take more than yourself to succeed. You will need to rely on study partners, the faculty, the staff, and your family; those who support you and your goals.
3) Find your purpose and stick to your goal. For the NYC Marathon, both Dionnie and Karen set their goals, but discovered, despite the fact that they were both running the same race, each had a different way to achieve their goal. Dionnie chose to incorporate a substantial cross training element to her training, while Karen focused on running and increasing her mileage. Both worked. The same is true for law students. You may think that because you are all taking the same classes and studying for the same tests that there is a best way or an only way. This is not necessarily true. You need to figure out the best way for you to do well in class and on your tests to best reach your goals and achieve your purpose.
4) Success is a matter of perspective. I remember when I ran the New York City Marathon for the first time. Not even five month earlier I had achieved my lifetime marathon goal of doing a sub 3:30 marathon. At the time, my goal was, of course, to do better than a 3:28. After all, for a runner, isn’t it always your goal to have a faster time? Imagine my disappointment when I crossed the finish line with a 3:35.
Well, it didn’t take me long to put that goal and accomplishment into perspective! That year, only a few months away from turning 50 years old, my finish time was in the top 1 percent of women in my age group, and in the top 10 percent of all women. I also realized that the one thing that really meant everything to me, and still does, was meeting running great, and 9 time NYC marathon winner Greta Weitz in person. And with her passing in 2011, it means more to me every year. I continue to be inspired to “Keep running!” every time I see her note to me on the poster I got from her that day in New York.
For law students, I imagine that they all would like to be first in their class. Or get that perfect internship. Or make six figures at their first job at the top law firm in the world. Again, success is a matter of perspective and you need to reflect and consider what success really means for you.
5) Sometimes less is more. Dionnie knew, despite Karen logging in some serious miles for her training, that she was not going to have the time in her schedule to do the same. She needed to train right, but it needed to be focused and play on her strengths. She also knew that too many miles would result in an injury and didn’t want to jeopardize her chance to run New York. The same can be said for law students. Sometimes studying too long or studying the wrong thing will not help, but hinder, your goals and objectives.
And just like making it to the NYC Marathon finish in Central Park will be an experience and accomplishment you will never forget, so is graduating from law school. You will have accomplished something bigger than yourself, with the promise of endless possibilities ahead of you.
This is only five ways how going to law school is like running the New York City Marathon. Do you have any others? Please share.