By Vado Porro • April 15, 2010•Writers in Residence
In less than a month, I will be able to follow my name with the letters "J.D." This three year, six semester, incredibly challenging journey will be over, and I will stand at the beginning of the rest of my life. May 10th is graduation day. It's the finish line. It's what we're running towards.
At the same time, I'm training for my second half-marathon. I'm on a mission to beat the course closing time of 3:15; but I'm also on a mission to beat my last half-marathon time of 2:20. My friend who I run races with is training with me, and we're a little nervous about how it's going to turn out. We began training right after spring break, with only 5 weeks until the race. We stepped up our mileage at an alarming pace, going from a 4-mile long run to an 8.5 mile long run to a 10-mile long run. We've done this before though. We have two ten milers, a half marathon, and a lot of 5k and 10k races under our belts. That doesn't change that we want to run the whole race and finish strong; that we want to do better than the last half marathon we did. Every race is a challenge, but every race ends the same way - the finish line.
When you run a race, nothing feels as good as realizing that you are almost at the finish line. I start counting down to the finish as soon as I'm past the halfway mark. But a funny thing also happens as soon as I hit the halfway mark. Once I'm past the halfway mark, I settle into the race and start to really enjoy it. I know that I'm halfway done and I feel at peace with my accomplishment thus far, and I feel confident that I can finish this race. I do this for everything from 5ks to half marathons, and I did it for law school. Once I passed into the second semester of my second year, I felt like it was all downhill from there. It was just a matter of settling in, maintaining my pace, and making sure I followed my instincts.
The thing is, I didn't do that. I worked hard though my second year, but once third year hit, I began to slow it down. I hit a motivational wall, and to make it worse, the economy was like a giant hill I couldn't overcome and couldn't see past. I couldn't find a job and it made me feel less and less confident about my ability, or even my desire, to finish. Law school is safe. It's the devil you know, and whatever comes after the finish line is the devil you don't. When you're running a race, you run on adrenaline. Your muscles are warm and they are keeping going as long as you are. The pain in your hip or knee is dull, and if you just keep running, you don't think about it. When you stop though, your muscles cramp up. They get sore. You realize how swollen your feet are and you're suddenly very, very cold. There is a point where you actually don't want to stop, because stopping is more painful than continuing. I started to feel that way in the fall, because I knew that staying in law school would be less difficult than finishing, but I also knew it wasn't an option. Eventually, you cross the finish line or you drop out of the race.
But now, the finish line is in sight. It's so close. And I could just start walking and it would come towards me, without any more pain or accomplishment, because it's inevitable. But I'm a fighter and I want to finish strong. I want to make up for my slacking and my failures and I want to sprint towards the finish line, pull out all the stops, and put in as much effort to finishing law school as I have in the last year of simply getting by. Technically, I have no exams. I have a few assignments that I have to finish, and I want to finish them with a lot of pride in my work. I'm going to be meticulous, dedicated, and the law student I used to be, so that I can finish strong and feel really proud of what I've done.
You don't win the race in the last mile, or the last 100 feet. But you feel better about your finish, and you come in a minute sooner than you would have otherwise. If you pick up the pace and finish strong, you focus on the sprint instead of focusing on how far away the line is. So if you are, like me, heading towards the finish line, pick up the pace a little and finish with your head held high.