Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Blog

Five Ways Going to Law School is Like Running the New York City Marathon

The New York Marathon is breathtaking and unforgettable. As you make your way over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the first of five bridges in the marathon, you push your way through five boroughs (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx), to the spectacular finish in Central Park.  Simply, it's bigger than yourself. And by doing it, you feel you can do anything.


Plus, the NYC marathon generates millions of dollars every year that all go to charities. It's a race, not only for the elite and qualifying runners, but for everyone. If you have the guts, the ability, the desire, and the determination to do it, it's possible. Those qualities are exactly what you need if you are considering law school. Below are some insights from our WMU-Cooley marathon runners.

Five ways going to law school is very much like running the New York City Marathon:

  1. You have to really want it. It takes too much determination and dedication to make the 26.2 miles to the finish line – or to make it to Graduation Day. For a marathon, you need to choose a training plan. Committing to that plan is crucial for marathon success. It is easy to get caught up looking at what others are doing and what they are trying to accomplish. Success, whether it's running the NYC Marathon, or doing well in law school, stems from you, your goals, and ultimately your hard work.

  2. Having a running (or study) buddy is the best and fastest road to success and life-long friendships. Runners succeed when they train with other runners and those who support running. In law school, it will take more than yourself to succeed. You will need to rely on study partners, the faculty, the staff, and your family; those who support you and your goals.

  3. Find your purpose and stick to your goal. For the NYC Marathon, everyone needs to set their own goals. Some may choose to incorporate a substantial cross training element, others may decide to increase mileage. Both can work. The same is true for law students. You may think that because you are all taking the same classes and studying for the same tests that there is a best way or an only way.  This is not necessarily true. You need to figure out the best way for you to do well in class and on your tests to best reach your goals and achieve your purpose.

  4. Success is a matter of perspective. WMU-Cooley Director of Communications recalls the first time she ran the New York City Marathon. Not even five month earlier she had achieved her lifetime marathon goal of doing a sub 3:30 marathon with a 3:28 at the Bayshore Marathon. Like any runner, the next goal is to run faster. Imagine her disappointment when she crossed the finish line with a 3:35? Well, it didn’t take long for her to put that goal and accomplishment into perspective. Not only did her finish time land her in the top one percent of women in her age group, she was in the top 10 percent of all women. 

    What Carella realized was that, although the athletic accomplishment will never be forgotten, what really mattered more was meeting running great, and 9 time NYC marathon winner Greta Weitz in person. And with her passing in 2011, its meaning grows every year. She only needs to read the words Weitz wrote, “Keep running!,” on the poster she signed that day in New York. 

    For law students, the first day in their class goes along with expectations and perspective too. You may expect the perfect internship. Or make six figures at the first job you land in one of the top law firms in the world. You need to reflect on what success means to you. It is a matter of perspective. Reflect upon and consider what success really means for you.

  5. Sometimes less is more. Training more miles may mean a better time running a marathon, but the reality is you need to train right to succeed. More miles may only result in an injury. The same can be said for law students. Sometimes studying too long or studying the wrong thing will not help, but hinder, your goals and objectives. And just like making it to the NYC Marathon finish line in Central Park will be an experience and accomplishment you will never forget, so is graduating from law school. You will have accomplished something bigger than yourself, with the promise of endless possibilities ahead of you.

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This is only five ways how going to law school is like running the New York City Marathon.  Do you have any others?  Please share.

August 14