At the weekend, I dusted off my trainers and managed to complete a half-marathon.
This wasn’t my first rodeo: several years ago, I had been a very enthusiastic runner and completed two half-marathons. I slipped out of practice though (long commutes will tend to do that) and my running shoes lay neglected in a corner of my flat for years. It was only recently, eager to find ways of seeing people while still keeping COVID-safe, I tentatively ventured back to my local parkrun and the rest is history.
But what does running have to do with academic study?
Quite a lot, as it turns out! As I’ve progressed my journey of getting back in shape, I’ve realised just how much my running progress has benefitted from tips and tricks I learnt when studying for my degrees, so the reverse is definitely true. First of all, studying is an endurance race, not a sprint. If I had just decided to go run 13 miles with no preparation, I probably wouldn’t have managed it, or I might have done myself an injury. Instead, I built up to it. Five kilometres each week at parkrun, quicker interval training, any time I could afford to build my technique…All that time more than paid off when faced with tackling the longest distance I’ve run in a long time. Same is true of academics: it doesn’t have to be much time each day, just reading an article or two or making some notes on what keywords to search for a topic. Every little bit you do beforehand, it’ll mean you’re prepared for the races that are assignments and any difficulties you encounter along the way.
Secondly, find friends to cheer you along the way. There are going to be stretches you have to do solo, and running very much has a reputation of being a solitary sport. But if you find your squad, things will feel so much easier. I always get my best times when I go for a run with friends and there are few feelings as good as running through a local street party that’s been put on for the runners brave enough to attempt the 13 miles. You don’t even need to have people there in person: special shout out to the friends who texted me all-caps supportive messages as I slogged on through the race. Comparing notes on what we’re struggling with has always helped me improve too: a group chat where we post our latest achievements or the time that I whined about struggling with getting out of breath to a friend and they showed me a new running beathing technique. All of this works just as well with studying. If you buddy up with people on your course for study sessions or simply to compare notes on a lecture topic, there’s a good chance they’ve got a different perspective that’ll make you think about the material in a new way. If nothing else, having people to motivate you along the way will always help you get through the worst of it.
Finally, don’t worry if it’s tough sometimes. We all have our days where we do less well: a rubbish time compared to your personal best, the inevitable running injury, simply not having the energy one day to keep going. I definitely wanted to give up 10km into my run when presented with yet another practically vertical hill! The trick is knowing how to pick yourself back up afterwards. Realistic targets, slow and steady progress, focusing on what’s going right for you. Before you know it, you’ll have an outstanding essay under your belt or a new medal in your cabinet to celebrate your achievement.Academic Writing