Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Grad School Marathon Journey

I'm going to Fargo this weekend to do my 9th marathon, so I thought it'd be an appropriate time to post this.  Don't forget to check back Sunday or Monday for my post-race update!

I Tweeted this the day I decided to make the final leaps to complete my dissertation.
This is a post a long time in the making, both in writing and in doing. My past four years in graduate school have easily been some of the toughest years of my life. As cliché as it sounds, though, I came out of it a stronger person -- the toughness of it all just makes crossing the finish line all the sweeter.

I scarcely believe I have basically made it through. In spite of what people think, I'm not smart. It doesn't take super-brains to get a doctoral degree, and I truly believe that. It does, however, require sacrifice, trudging through a lot of stuff you don't want to do, and a positive outlook.

Everything I just said can apply to running a marathon.

Marathons -- I've done several of them by now, but the feelings are still there. Marathons contain some of the toughest moments you'll have, but out you come -- a stronger person.  And yet, I sometimes still can't believe I've been able to finish one, let alone more than one -- some in better shape than others, of course. And it doesn't take an elite athlete to complete a marathon -- just sacrifice and trudging through a lot of training runs that you sometimes don't want to do.

So drawing from my years of marathoning and grad school experiences, I give you the Grad School Marathon.

EVENT: Grad School "Marathon"
DATE: August 2007 - May 2011
LOCATION: That burdenous @#!% follows you everywhere!
RACE BEGAN: August 27, 2007, 4 PM
FINISH TIME: 4 (academic) years

START: Nervous, uncertain I can finish the race but came well-prepared and trained.

Miles 1-6: Year 1 - Adjusting to a pace; getting acquainted with the territory

Miles 6-12: Year 2 - Whoa, mega-academic hills (i.e., Advanced Stats II, taking too many classes at once)! Multi-tasking (because I worked two jobs at the time).

Miles 12-13.1: Master's Thesis -- This was a painful stretch, but I was the first out of my cohort to get here! At Mile 13.1, I "graduated."  Cow bells for me!

Miles 13.1-15: Spent summer studying for and then taking comprehensive exams. It's like taking the SAT or something. Agh! Passing the test meant that I could continue running this race. Pass the GU, please!

Miles 15-17: Year 3 - Had a few scrappy classes left and think about how I'm going to last the rest of the race (i.e., plan dissertation).

Miles 17-20: Writing proposal........... Let me do my @#$% preliminary oral defense already!

Mile 20: A mile where too many people are staring at me, evaluating me, but let me continue in the race! Sweaty!

Mile 21: Got approval on my proposal.

Mile 22-24: Collecting data -- please fill out my survey (a.k.a., please cheer for me)!!!

Mile 24: Analyzing data -- my legs/brain hurt!!  Definitely some tough patches here, too.

Mile 25: Final edits. Sooo close!  I didn't want to run anymore!

Mile 26: Final defense. Now EVERYONE is looking at me struggle toward the end.

Mile 26.2: Final revisions and format dissertation for library. Cross finish line weary.

Woo!!  Auto-PR!  And definitely not a race I'd EVER want to do again!

Although, I have to admit that *the race shirts can't be beat*... though you'll have to wait a few more weeks to see it, since I refuse to remove it from the box beforehand.

Okay, so maybe this wasn't a very good way of epitomizing the thing that has consumed me for years.  Getting a bachelor's, masters, and Ph.D in the span of seven years -- well, kinda... BA term in 2003 and Ph.D. term in 2011 -- is truly something I will have to stop and reflect upon during my "recovery period."  I'm sure I'll quit bringing this up after some time.  After all, I'm starting to get used to being a "normal" (?) person again... sorta.


  1. Love this. It's funny, I've made the same comparison - between dissertating and marathoning - and I agree that they have similar rhythms and make you similarly stronger in the end. But I also think that (at least for me) marathoning made me a far better graduate student, and dissertating made me a much better athlete, because both were a constant exercise in pushing beyond my comfort zone.

    Good luck this weekend!

  2. Hooray graduation!!!! Does this mean that I have to start calling you Dr? if it does, I'm totally doing it "Spies like us" style.

    Dr!! Dr?? Dr!!!