Training for a marathon during business school

The first year of business school is a juggling act of commitments — meeting new people, studying, networking, searching for internships…the list goes on and on. So how did Abby Rudd, a first-year MBA student at W. P. Carey studying marketing and business analytics, find time to train for a marathon at the same time?

Q: When did you decide to start training for a marathon and what was your motivation?

A: Around the time I got in to W. P. Carey and accepted, I decided to train for the marathon at the same time. Ultimately, I wanted to be able to set my mind to something that was ambitious and work towards and reach a goal. Also, at this age I don’t have as many sports-related goals, so running gave me a health and wellness goal in addition to the school goals I was setting for the MBA.

Q: Tell me about your schedule during a typical training week?

A: It always depended on where I was in the training calendar. When school started, it was a pretty simple training schedule with one to one-and-a-half hour runs four times per week. As Q1 and Q2 progressed, I got busier. A typical week might have included 90 minutes of training every weekday, whether it was running or other workouts, plus up to a three hour run on Saturdays.

Q: How did you prioritize those runs when homework or job applications were piling up?

A: I always built them into my schedule. When planning for the week I considered my workouts, individual assignments, team meetings, and other commitments. I got used to using Saturday and Sunday to get all of the individual prep and assignments done for the following week. When working in teams, it was crucial that I was organized and stuck to a schedule. I always set boundaries of when I needed to leave and go home to focus on the marathon goals, and my teammates were supportive of that.

I maintained some flexibility to adjust the running schedule as needed to accommodate special circumstances, like an exam week, but for the most part I used the marathon training as a way to force balance in my life and say no to things. I do feel like I missed out on social opportunities and forming deeper relationships with classmates outside of school. But the trade-off of focusing on my own health and wellness and doing something that makes me happy and reduces stress was more important.

Q: So you just finished your first marathon -- congratulations! What was it like crossing that finish line?

A: Painful! It was kind of a blur; I felt like I was on another planet. Even thought I was so tired and exhausted, I thought, ‘Finally! I did it! And I didn’t fail out of school!’

I think I proved people wrong that I could do both, and I proved myself wrong, too, because I doubted myself that I could manage two big commitments at the same time.

Q: What are you going to do with all your free time now?

A: Train for something else! I want to find other goals of things I could work towards to continue to force myself to have that balance. Maybe smaller goals this time.

It is easy to get caught up in school and put your head down and work, work, work. By forcing myself to work towards a goal I am making sure I don’t get caught up and I still have that balance. In the end it’s about prioritizing and choosing the things that give me happiness and balance.

I am looking forward to getting involved in other things on campus, though. I will be part of the MBAA next year representing the voices of the students in my class. I hope to find ways to engage with alumni and other committees and want to have a bigger picture of what’s going on in the program. Just like with running, I want to focus on making improvements!

Q: Do you think your training enhanced or hindered your school experience in the first year?

A: The biggest lesson I learned was how to prioritize work. The MBA program, just like a job, will throw more at you than you can handle. I learned how to ask, ‘What is most important? What needs to be done right now? What can slide?’ Those are lessons I will take into my next job.

Q: What’s your number one tip for finding balance during business school?

A: Don’t be afraid to push back and say no to things if there are things that are really important to you that you want to find the time for.

When you are working in a group, it’s hard to be the one to say no. But having other commitments is OK as long as you are organized and transparent about how it fits into your schedule. I got a lot of support from my classmates, too!

Louise Hardman