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Law Practice Today

May 2024

Why Every Attorney Should Run a Marathon

Heather N Bowen Pascual

Summary 

  • The physical and mental toughness that is required for marathon training can have professional benefits, as well.
  • Much as running a marathon requires high levels of endurance and stamina, so too must attorneys be prepared to endure working for long hours, preparing for trials, and closing high-stakes transactions.
Why Every Attorney Should Run a Marathon
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Running a marathon is extremely challenging, to say the least. This massive feat of running 26.2 miles through nearly 30 neighborhoods in Chicago was significantly harder than any legal endeavor I have taken on. It was harder than law school, harder than taking the bar exam, and harder than the practice of law by many leaps and bounds. Some of the most important factors I focused on during marathon training, and which are likewise applicable to the practice of law, were not just physical development but also a healthy lifestyle, physical toughness, and mental toughness.

Healthy Lifestyle

The legal profession is notorious for showcasing and boasting an unhealthy lifestyle. Many attorneys lead sedentary lives, spending long hours each day sitting at a desk typing away on their computers, often without pausing for meals or to exercise or stretch their legs. In addition, attorneys willingly take on immense stress due to client demands. This high pressure to perform for clients and supervisors in an attempt to bill thousands of hours and advance one’s own career in a wildly competitive environment often leads to substance abuse and can contribute to severe mental health issues. Moreover, many attorneys lack a work-life balance and are instead praised by their colleagues and superiors when they pull all-nighters or otherwise obtain fewer than five hours of sleep.

Attorneys who choose to run a marathon can drastically change their previously unhealthy lifestyle for a number of reasons. To effectively train for and run a marathon, one must be able to prioritize health and fitness as the main focus. One must be able to (ideally) create one’s own schedule or otherwise have sufficient flexibility in one’s schedule to accommodate the high volume of weekly running mileage. In addition, the schedule must be flexible enough to incorporate high-intensity interval training several times per week. Marathon training forces the individual to implement proper eating habits, eliminate or significantly reduce smoking and drinking, and gain adequate sleep for energy and recovery to keep pressing forward.

Physical Toughness

From the dozens of miles covered each week, to the strain on the cardiovascular system, to the muscle fatigue, to the stresses and repetitive impact on the joints, to the depletion of glycogen stores, to the accumulation of lactic acid, to the muscle cramping and electrolyte depletion, to the nutritional demands, to the varying surface terrains, and to the recovery from it all, training for and running a marathon is undoubtedly extremely physically demanding. I personally trained between 10 and 15 hours per week, not including training that I did on my own outside of the gym. It truly felt like a part-time job. The training process is a challenge to the body’s level of endurance, strength, and overall stamina, which one must sustain for hours in an intense race against one’s own self in order to successfully cross the literal and proverbial finish line.

Attorneys who run marathons can likewise leverage that physical toughness to show up as a better and stronger version of themselves in their daily practice of law. In the same way that running a marathon requires high levels of endurance and stamina, so too must attorneys be prepared to better endure working for long hours, preparing for extensive trials, and closing high-stakes transactions. Training for a marathon does not come without its own setbacks, whether through injury or otherwise. The difference is that marathon runners know how to efficiently deal with the obstacles that so constantly try to impede their goals. So too can attorneys learn to better manage their own setbacks rather than turning to unhealthy measures such as smoking, drinking, overeating, or undereating.

Mental Toughness

Training for and subsequently running a marathon requires a high level of mental toughness, resilience, and adaptability, qualities that are crucial for attorneys in their daily practice. Having mental toughness when training for a marathon requires pushing your mind farther and your body to endure more than it has ever before experienced—and doing this consistently and strategically over a period of six to nine months at a time. It requires facing the challenges of physical and mental discomfort, high levels of fatigue, and significant moments of doubt. Developing a fierce sense of mental toughness translates well into the practice of law.

The practice of law can be mentally draining due to the complexity of matters one handles, the long hours spent preparing for litigation or negotiating transactions, and the demanding personality traits and intricate client circumstances. Attorneys, both junior and senior alike, must learn how to proficiently manage these high-pressure situations and high-profile cases with a sense of calm and clear thinking as opposed to letting it lead to some level of burnout or an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle. In the practice of law, as in training for a marathon, attorneys must be disciplined in their work habits; maintain focus and concentration over several days, weeks, and months at a time; and be attentive and effective when appearing in legal proceedings or in negotiating complex transactions.

Conclusion

Ultimately, attorneys should test the bounds of their mental toughness, physical toughness, and self-motivation by running at least one marathon, if not many more, during the course of their legal career. It will bring about a newfound ability to pace themselves in their work, create a healthier work-life balance, conserve energy, and strongly push through the profession’s most challenging circumstances to achieve lasting success.

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