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I’ve always been athletic, but I didn’t become a runner until law school. Since then, I’ve participated in a handful of races, including four half marathons. Beyond helping me maintain my physique, there is something satisfying and refreshing about starting the day by pounding pavement. When I run, the world is reduced to me, my headset and the road. It’s one time of the day that I don’t have to worry about clients, writing deadlines or networking.
I recently noted that a significant number of lawyers are also runners. The State Bar of Arizona had 83 participants on its running team “Bar Flys” for the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, for example, and won its category for the race’s Get Fit Challenge. My lawyer friends go at it at all levels in terms of fitness—some struggle to jog 15-minute miles and others complete marathons and Ironman triathlons.
How does running benefit us as people and legal professionals? I sent out a survey to some lawyers I know to see if there are common reasons and benefits behind this shared hobby.
The first thing several people said was it’s the only time they get to be alone. Several said running helps them clear their mind and helps them think, sometimes simultaneously. One response I did not expect but heard from several attorneys was that running gives them a sense of accomplishment.
“I run because it’s a judgment-free space. When nothing feels like it’s going well, I get out there on the trails/road and feel successful at something.” — Lauren Vint, University of Baltimore Law School student
As expected, many also said running helped them manage their stress and stay in shape.
“[Running] keeps me sane. If I didn’t run, I would be depressed and crazy. There is too much going on in life and running gives me focus, time to be alone, and to clear my head. I like the fitness side of it, but that is secondary.” — Kolby Granville, a lawyer who recently left the profession to be a teacher
By far the most common response I received for how running helps lawyers professionally was that it helps them to stay balanced and centered.
“I think [it] has to do with mental well-being at least as much as physical. One of the primary challenges in this profession is dealing with stress, and running has been great for stress relief and just improving my mood in general.” — Ben Kafka, Partner at Poulton Kafka
“Running relaxes and centers me, which allows me to take a more neutral approach to resolving cases.” — Rebekah S. Bell, Solo practitioner
Multiple lawyers also responded that running gives them more endurance and energy throughout the day. Since many of us work long hours, this is an important benefit.
Another response that multiple lawyers gave was that running is a conversation starter. With all the networking we have to do in our professional lives, it’s something that many people can connect on regardless of their positions or areas of practice.
But the best response I got came from a managing partner.
“I usually pretend that I’m running from zombies—literally running for my life. Once I get into it I can feel them breathing down my neck, and I run until my teeth hurt. Lawyers have the highest rate of substance abuse among professionals. But who needs a beer when you’ve got the endorphin rush that follows escaping a hoard of the walking dead?” — Liz Harris-Wylde, Managing Partner at Wylde Summers
Food for thought, eh? If you’re not a runner and you’re unhappy about your professional or personal life, maybe you should start. There are lots of lawyers out there who can give you tips and suggestions for getting started. It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or good at it. Just run.
Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. Her virtual practice, The Carter Law Firm, focuses on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to Get Sued, Fired, Arrested or Killed, and co-founder of Improv Arizona. In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her new virtual practice. She also blogs weekly at UndeniableRuth.com.
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