While interviewing for dental school, one of the questions that I asked enrolled students was: “Is there any time for extracurricular activities?” The question was one that I asked because I wanted to continue my commitment to running. Before arriving at dental school in August 2015, I had completed three full marathons and almost twenty half marathons. For many years, running was my outlet. Running gave me time each day to tune out my worries and release stress. It was my time to disconnect from the world and clear my head.
During my first week of dental school, I found my own answer to the question that I asked during my interviews. A dental school curriculum leaves little to no time for running. For the first time since I was twelve years old, I put my running shoes aside. I believed that if I spent less time running and more time in the library, I would be a more successful student. I was wrong.
First semester stresses piled on. I discovered a new level of exhaustion, and it was eclipsing my ability to focus. As Thanksgiving approached, I wanted to feel energetic again. I could think of only one way to recharge. As soon as I pulled my running shoes out from under my bed and laced them up, I felt better. I looked online for half marathons in the area, and registered for the Santa Hustle Christmas Half Marathon in Portland, Maine. Another student in my class registered too. I now had a running partner!
After only two weeks of training, I felt significant physical and mental improvements. I was surprised that by blocking out time in my schedule for running, I was not losing study time, but studying more efficiently. As an added bonus, I was getting to explore the beautiful Maine coast on foot each morning before class.
As I crossed the finish line of the Santa Hustle Half Marathon, I wondered why I gave up an activity that has always made me feel healthier and stronger. I signed up for more races. I even entered my name in the lottery for the 2016 New York Marathon, and I was accepted!
Training for a half or full marathon sounds intimidating, but the benefits are invaluable. This is my advice for other dental students who are interested in fitting running into their schedules:
- Find a course that you feel excited about running. The chance to be in an inspiring natural or urban setting is good motivation for running.
- Don’t hesitate to register for a race. Making the commitment provides incentive to find time in your schedule to train.
- Look online for a training program that works well with your schedule, and don’t be afraid to adjust it in order to make your goals achievable.(Hal Higdon has free training programs here.)
- Find a running partner. Great friendships can grow from running together.
- Run with your dog if you have one. It’s a chance for your dog to exercise and a way to reward canine patience in the middle of full-time studying!
Race days always come with the reward of crossing a finish line with a crowd of strangers cheering your accomplishment. Even better is the sense of personal achievement at the end of a race. All of this makes the challenges of dental school a little more manageable.
~ Caroline Moore, New England ’19