University of Nebraska Medical Center

7 Keys to Making it to the Finish Line

By Charlie King | student in genetic counseling

As I enter the final week of my first year as a Genetic Counseling student, I find myself reflecting on my past nine months at UNMC. The rollercoaster that is graduate school is an eventful ride. I have felt a macroarray (genetic counseling joke) of emotions. Emotions ranging from courageous, hopeful, and confident, to feeling isolated, powerless, and inadequate at times.

Throughout my first year, I have held on to a piece of my life that has helped me stay mentally strapped in and made it possible for me to keep my sanity. Running. Last year I ventured to the mountains of Colorado to run my first marathon. After completing my first trail race, I knew that I would be running more races in the future. Flashing forward one year later, I am signed up to attempt my first ultramarathon in Bryce Canyon, Utah. Similar to when I first moved myself to Omaha to begin school, I have no idea what I’m getting myself into. As a self-proclaimed UNMC student-athlete, I’d like to share with you seven keys to making it to the finish line. Whether your finish line be graduating school, completing an ultramarathon, or something entirely different.

7-Find YOUR pace
In professional school and in an ultramarathon, you will be surrounded by hundreds of high achieving people. One of the most crucial of being successful is becoming comfortable with your pace. If you aren’t keeping pace with those around you, you have no reason to feel discouraged. Everyone doesn’t get to the finish line in the same fashion. Finding a pace that works best for you is crucial for personal success.

6-Know Your Weaknesses
One of the most powerful ways of improving is knowing your weaknesses. Self-reflecting and identifying what you’re struggling with is the first step in improving your skills. Be open to criticism and embrace feedback. Identify your weaknesses, work at them, and you’ll be more equipped for the unknown challenges down the trail.

5-Get Reliable Training Partners
Never underestimate the power of a friend! Reliable training partners can help spur you on when you’re needing it. Some of my closest friendships have been forged in the fire of long, seemingly endless challenges. As Forrest Gump would say, best good friends ain’t, “something you can find just around the corner.”

4-Celebrate Victories (no matter how small)
Throughout your training, you will experience days when you feel like you’re doing exactly what you were meant to do. Other days, not so much. Celebrating smaller milestones can help keep your fire lit and make the journey much more enjoyable. The journey, NOT the finish line, is what is most important after all.

3-Keep. Moving. Forward.
Momentum is a powerful tool. If you’re going strong, ride the waves of positivity as far as they will take you. When going gets tough, allow yourself to slow down, but don’t ever stop. Small progress really does add up. You’ll get so much further if you Keep. Moving. Forward.

Self-explanatory. Number 2 on the list for a reason.

1-Downsize your goals
We’ve all heard it, shoot for the stars!! Right? Wrong. Well, sort of. Thinking about finishing a monumental task like professional school or an ultramarathon can be daunting. The only way that these goals can be tackled is by parring them down. During professional school, it might help to focus on getting to the weekend, rather than getting to graduation. If it’s a Monday and you’ve got a loaded week, thinking about getting through the day might make things feel more doable. If that’s too much, focus on the next lecture, or patient you’ll be seeing. My mentality while running a marathon follows a similar pattern. I start by thinking about getting to the next aid station. If that becomes too difficult, I might focus on getting to the next mile. If that’s too much, picking a random object in sight to run to might help me keep focus. There are even moments when I can only focus on the next step because anything more seems impossible. And that’s okay. The important thing is that I’m still progressing, still striving for my finish line.

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