5 Ways Running Has Prepared Me for Law School

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself considering that I haven’t started yet, but I do feel like running has prepared me, at least mentally, for the biggest challenge of my life yet — law school. Three months out from orientation, I feel motivated, energized, and slightly intimidated, quite like I do when I start marathon training!

This is not merely a coincidence. No, I believe that all those training cycles in my past have uniquely prepared me for the rigors of law school.

1. Dealing with Competition

Objective success in law school comes down to grades. Specifically, your class rank. Like a race, where you rank among your peers matters for some things. But as we learn in running, we can’t control what our competition does; we can only control ourselves. So, first thing’s first: if you go into law school with a goal, say to graduate cum laude or land a dream internship, you need to identify where about you need to be in your class rank and figure about what kind of grades you’d need to get there. Think of it like wanting to win an age group award at a race and studying the past race results to know about what your goal time would need to be to win the trophy.

2. The Ugly Side of Getting into Shape

In training and racing, there are moments when we feel that we’re so not ready for this. We look weeks out in our training plan and see our longest tempo yet, and we think, WTF how can I ever do this? A great lady named Amy Poehler once said that great people do things before they are ready, and that applies to running — and law school. When I saw my class list for fall semester I saw a word I’ve never seen before and it was the name of a class. Surely, I’m not fit for law school if I have to look up what a name of a first year law class means! But “Torts” will make sense eventually (and is apparently not about dessert).

3. Pushing Through Fatigue

Many times in racing, particularly in the marathon, when I think I cannot take another step, I can look around me and see that there are thousands of people doing the same thing as me. I’m not alone! I’m not the only one out here suffering! Even though I fear Torts, I realize that I’m not the only law student in America with anxiety over my studies. For better or worse, my newest community of friends will push me, and I them, to the finish.

4. Letting Go of Perfect

Running has helped me to let go of my perfectionism and accept that not every race goes according to plan. This will be particularly important as I enter academia once more. School has historically been the one area of my life that I give 100% of myself. I struggled with this in architecture school (not coincidentally) before I started running marathons. I went from being the academic superstar from my tiny high school to losing my identity and self-esteem in a big, intimidating world of architecture, in which I did not understand how to execute my design concepts. I finished school burned out, never desiring to open AutoCAD ever again. Running has taught me how to be flexible with plans and take breaks when necessary to avoid both burnouts and identity crises.

5. Welcoming the Challenge

I have gone into many workouts, and most recently the half where I PR’d, knowing that they were going to be intense. I have slowly learned to face the discomfort, understanding that it will be painful, but nothing I cannot handle. I’ve heard so many horror stories about law school, and yes, I am scared. I know it’s going to hurt, and I am okay with that, and maybe, just maybe I’ll exceed my wildest expectations of myself.

If you’ve been there, how would you say running helped you with law school or vice versa?

I'm a freelancer writing from the beaches of southern Spain, where I recently ran a half marathon PR. Soon I'll be shifting gears to law student and marathoner. Wearing many hats is kinda my thing. I'm a Jill of all trades, master of none. But I'm hoping to master something, sometime. ;)

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6 comments

  1. * Similar to race day, on exam day, you’ll have to tune out all of the jerks standing around dissecting answers and puffing themselves up. Best to find a corner and get in the zone. You’ll also think that you can identify the fast people at the start line, but there are always some quiet sleeper students who come from nowhere with huge GPAs. They come from nowhere because they’re hunkered down in the library or in office hours.

    * Similar to training there’s always more you feel/know you should be doing, but the trick is to try out a few things that seem like good study tricks, find what works for you, and stay the course.

    1L year will feel like a 5k – all-out and you’re not sure how much longer you can hang in there. You’ll be ok if you lean into the suck.
    2L will feel like peak weeks of training – you’re always tired and feel like you’re going nonstop, but you know deep down that you’re really getting to where you need to be.
    3L will feel like taper. Half of your classes are annoying and you will occasionally feel like you’re just kind of biding your time until graduation/the real world.
    The Bar exam… oh the Bar. Bar prep is the marathon (similarly, it will feel like you’re living on power-boosting liquids and sugar) and the actual exam is that final 10k of the marathon when things start to hurt and there’s determination and a little fear about the wheels falling off, but as soon as you start doubting yourself, you hit the final mile, cross the finish line and have a beer (or 10) and sleep for a week.

    Running took a backseat a bit during law school. I tried to run a marathon the Fall of 2L year and it was hard. It felt like a lot on my plate and it wasn’t pretty. That being said, running is what got me out of a study funk and in the winter, my favorite thing was to throw on a bunch of layers and run 3-4mi in the cold air. It can help you leave a lot of things behind if you’re flexible. Your life will feel so structured in a lot of ways, so don’t put too much pressure on structuring your running, too. Good luck!

    1. Spot on! That first semester — there will be people who seem to know everything and constantly raising their hands and showing off their amazingness. These are the Strava/Social Media training heroes who put in the epic workouts. But more likely than not, those people will not be on the Law Review, just as people who do super hero awesome ego-boosting workouts tend to be highly disappointed on race day.

    2. Hillary! I thought I replied to this amazing comment weeks ago. Yeesh! This was so hilarious and helpful. :D Even though I haven’t been to law school yet, your analogies make total sense to me. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks so much!

  2. I made my adult return to running the day after I finished taking the bar exam. So for me, the opposite was true. Law school was intense and challenging. Balancing the competitive aspect with actually diving in and learning as much as I could taught me how to balance competition with personal excellence in running. Law school really taught me how to strive with intention and to take responsibility for my work and my performance. I loved it and I hope you do too!

  3. I might add that the lower resting heart rate will help you not freak out when the professor cold calls on you and says, “Ms. Bergamot, please tell us the facts of Palsgraf v. Long Island.”

    Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been a law student – I work at a law school and one of my bosses teaches torts. I promise it is fun and interesting stuff!