Dental School is a Marathon

Dental School is a Marathon

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “dental school is a marathon” or “your dental career is a marathon” since beginning dental school. As an amateur runner with some 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons under my belt, this metaphor resonated with me. This imagery motivated me my first year as I imagined my whole career before me, the hard work it was going to take, and the great rewards of helping people due to the time I put in.

Then I started training the fall of my D2 year for an ACTUAL marathon. And man, did the “dental school is a marathon” thing take on a whole new meaning.

Marathon training has taught me so many valuable lessons and has really broadened my outlook on my approach to my goals. I want to share some of the lessons I have learned.

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Every day, focus on the why - Why do I do what I do? For my marathon, this “why” is crossing the finish line at the end of my first race. For my dental career, it is the lifelong goal of helping people and giving them reasons to smile more. I have realized in school and with my marathon training that if you aren’t grounded in the “why”, the hard work you have to put in gets a lot harder.
  2. Rest and taking care of yourself is essential. Training for a 26.2 mile race can be tough on your body, and so can dentistry without proper ergonomics. Taking time to rest not only physically, but also intellectually and spiritually can help renew and refresh you in order to be at your best every day.
  3. Pace yourself. 26.2 miles is run One. Step. At. A. Time. We as dental students have a lot going on - If I endlessly obsess about everything I have to do in the next two months, I would have a pretty rough time. Focus on one task at a time. Think about the next thing you should do, then do it!
  4. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Without adherence to a training schedule, I can’t expect to just show up on race day and run 26.2 miles. Everything in a marathon is one step at a time - every day trying your best to push yourself a little more. Every day, all we have to give is our best effort. It has taken me a long time to realize that doing my best is what I should strive for rather than being the best. Reach out for help always, don’t be afraid to acknowledge where you know you can improve.

Overall, I think what I’ve heard about dental school as a marathon is pretty true. Marathons are about commitment, dedication, and perseverance - all very important character values we need to be reminded of sometimes in school. All of that hard work is going to pay off when I cross the finish line.