I meticulously planned my long runs. The plan required three long runs per month. On the long-run weeks, social events were difficult to attend. Planning required a shocking amount of acceptance from my friends and professional colleagues when I repeatedly sent my regrets rather than attending events. This rigid organization is no different than setting a case structuring order or discovery plan in federal court. Once you have chosen your deadlines, you need to make the work fit within those deadlines, which means planning ahead and avoiding distractions. Training as much as required would not have been possible without the remote work policy implemented by my firm’s management several years ago, which allowed me to fit in up to 75 training miles per week.
Next, I selected my team. In the same way you prepare a trial team based on skill and availability, I chose a few especially strong candidates. First up was my significant other. He is a former ultra-athlete (though he now describes himself as a “reluctant runner”) who had already run the races I was running. He also joined me for my long runs, jumping in at mile 20 to keep me going on my last 10. He knew my running style and where I struggled during my training, so he would be in charge of me and my crew.
Next was my brother, a Boston-fast marathoner. Whether he ran 5 miles or 50 with me, he would push my pace. Having him at the race was also important for my psyche because we had run together for many years.
Rightly recognizing that this madness was entirely her fault, the friend who had texted me late that night about the documentary also committed to helping with my general survival. Along with her annoyingly optimistic husband and another close friend who is also an attorney, I had a team devoted to my physical and mental well-being.
After months of training with my team, it came time for the “taper”—the period leading up to race day when you stop going on long runs and begin actively resting in anticipation of the ultimate run. I would describe these weeks as the weekend before a big trial. You’ve done all the preparing you can, and now you just need to rest and focus on the final details. I started having stress nightmares, as many attorneys do before trial, so I pre-packed. I got all my gear together, laid it out, washed it, packed it, and then I did all the non-running activities I could to prepare. The stress dreams stopped.
On race day, I was ready. I had the same confidence walking up to the starting line as I do walking into court for jury selection. I knew the first lap of the race would be similar. It would set the tone, and it would be the most important part.
The race consists of two loops that connect in the middle (picture an infinity symbol with one side bigger than the other). Where the loops intersect, the competitors camp in a field at a wonderful cross-country ski area attached to a bed and breakfast in rural Vermont. One loop is 7 miles long, the other a little over 20 miles long, with both together equating to roughly 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Competitors complete 3 of the 7-mile loops and 4 of the 20-mile loops. (If you are doing math in your head, you should stop: It is not a 100-mile race. It is slightly longer.) There are three places where a crew can meet a competitor for support. These were critical lifelines where my crew was ever present. In the same way that your support is available during trial to do quick research, pull the right exhibit at the right time, or help proof a memorandum overnight, my crew was there for me. I have wondered whether my team was so good because half of them were also trial lawyers and were, therefore, acclimated to high intensity on a grueling schedule. It is also just as likely because they are close friends who know me well, but I will push this a bit further to say that whether you are friends with your co-counsel or not, you do get to know them and what they need. I have learned the habits of my co-counsel during trial preparation and trial, and great trial attorneys do not alter these rituals because it is what has made them successful in the past, so as a new associate, you learn these habits and try to adapt. My team did this for me.