Nov 072011
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

Every year at around this time, I end up saying to myself, my various group project members and my roommate’s cat glaring at me with eyes of judgement, “I swear, I used to be a good student!”

And every year, I realize just how important endurance is during the academic marathon of college.

This past Sunday night, I sat down at my living room table a little after 8 p.m. with the full intention of finishing an essay and studying for a test I had yesterday –– both of which combined shouldn’t have taken more than a couple hours back when I was a “good student.”

But by 1 a.m., I had: finished a load of laundry; eaten an entire box of macaroni and cheese; and a bowl of Frosted Fakes; rearranged my closet; fed aforementioned judgmental cat; watched several YouTube videos demonstrating how to “krump” and I printed out 10 Thanksgiving pie recipes I probably won’t make.

Also, I had written the heading for the essay and started thinking about, thinking about the test.

The cat had all the right to judge.

I’m sure a lot of us have had nights where we (almost) literally do everything we can to avoid the actual schoolwork that needs to be finished. Lately, it’s happened to me more often than I’d like to admit.

And just when I was about to cave in, give up and decide I was just too “burnt out” to finish this semester strongly, I read several stories about this year’s New York City Marathon and the incredibly dedicated people who finished it –– particularly, the tale of Kenyan runner Geoffrey Mutai who just broke the marathon’s previous record.

After reading about Mutai’s and the other runners’ unrelenting strength and dedication, I suddenly felt profoundly lazy, and every excuse I had used to justify getting so behind in school this semester seemed like just that –– an excuse.

While I know a 26.2 mile-long race and a semester’s worth of college coursework hardly require the same set of skills (or physical fitness), they do both require a vital sense of endurance and unrelenting desire to succeed.

And sitting at my table at 1 a.m., with nothing but a blank word document and an un-viewed pile of notes sitting in front of me, I knew I had temporarily lost those vital traits.

Considering I barely survived being forced by my high school gym teacher to run a mile in less than 10 minutes, there’s a slim chance I’ll ever actually participate in, let alone finish, the NYC Marathon. But my own running-inadequacies have led me to look at the courageous runners’ endurance as a source of awe and inspiration during days like last Sunday.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Mutai was reported saying immediately after winning the race, “I run with no fear.”

As someone who cried (bawled) during “Steel Magnolias” and gets choked up just thinking about almost every scene from “Homeward Bound,” personal quotes like Matai’s are all I need to push me into sappy inspiration overload.

And as cheesy as it sounds, I think we could all learn from Mutai’s words and tangible displays of fearless endurance.

The 30-year-old Kenyan man didn’t just win his first marathon this past Sunday: he also won this year’s Boston Marathon, during which he broke the record for the fastest marathon ever run with a time of 2:03:02. That equates to a 4:32 per mile pace, and I’m just guessing, but I doubt he stopped to watch YouTube videos along the way.

What seems to make Mutai and other marathoners so successful is not just aggressive physical training, but also a mindset that seems to transcend the human bounds of physical and mental exhaustion.

Jacqueline Gareau, an avid marathoner and 1980 Boston Marathon winner, was once quoted as saying, “The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”

This “will to succeed” can be elusive at this point in the semester, but it’s something we need to maintain a view of –– at least out of the corner of our eyes.

That way, when we finally do have a break and hours to sit around doing nothing, we may actually be inspired to do something other than learn how to “krump.”

_Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at _

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