I quickly exited the lecture hall and ran up the stairs two at a time to get to my locker. I had a couple of minutes to get into a t-shirt and shorts before meeting up with the marathon team. After some stretching and introductions, we exited the medical center and began our run towards the bike trail. It was overcast and began to rain in the middle of the run, but I didn’t mind. It didn’t matter that I had just sat through a long lecture. It didn’t matter that after my run, I would return to the medical education center and try to organize all the information I had learned throughout the week. It didn’t matter that I was probably going to sit in class afterwards soaked in rain water. What mattered was that I had found a way to keep doing what I love during medical school.
Running has always played a large role in my life. I remember staying over at my grandmother’s house and spending parts of the day at the local track with her. I ran my first road race in elementary school, standing side by side on the starting line with her. When she developed arthritis and couldn’t accompany me on the roads anymore, I took up track and cross country through middle school and high school. For me, running was a stress reliever. When I was out on the roads or trails, nothing could bother me. I didn’t have a care in the world, just like when I would run at the track with my grandmother.
Like most of my classmates, I was unsure of what to expect when starting medical school. I didn’t know if school would encompass my life or if I would be able to establish a balance between my studies and activities. I wasn’t a complete stranger to letting school take over my life. During college when things became stressful, my first reaction was to stop all things that weren’t academic. It started small: I would occasionally come home with a large amount of work and decide to forego my afternoon run. Sometimes I would have a lot of reading to do so I would leave my phone in my room and study in the library for the rest of the day. Eventually, I stopped running completely and wasn’t talking to my family or friends as often as I wanted to. Even though I was completing my school work, I wasn’t able to enjoy the fresh air or de-stress on a beautiful fall day by going out for a run. I was miserable. After graduation, I was able to begin running again and re-establish a balance in my life. As orientation week for the College of Medicine approached, though, I became increasingly afraid that I would fall back into my old habits.
After a few weeks of school, I soon realized being a medical student doesn’t mean I have to resume my undergraduate routine and get rid of activities that take time away from studying. While I do have less free time than I had in college, I’m still able to set a couple hours aside to go out for a run and explore the area. My classmates have also served as motivation for me to continue with my running. Whether their interests are dancing, reading, playing an instrument, or rock climbing, they all have been able to block out time to put the PowerPoints aside and do something that makes them happy. At times when I feel overwhelmed and pressured to do nothing but study, I think of my classmates and remember that if they can put some time aside to do what they love, I can too.