Duke Weekend Executive MBA Student Blog
Running 100 Miles and Building a Career—No Easy Wins
I was in the middle of the Weekend Executive MBA program and realized that walking into first-term courses like financial accounting reminded me of the uncertainty at the starting line of a race.
I was 50 miles in and hit a physical and mental wall. After the last couple hours of running in the freezing rain, my legs locked up and I could barely force calories in. The sun would be setting soon and covering another 50 miles to the finish sounded impossible.
That’s not the story I shared on social media.
After 33 hours without sleep, moving through desertscapes and the La Sal mountains, I posted a smiling pic at the finish line with my 100-mile belt buckle. But that snapshot was only the tip of the iceberg—the easy part.
MBAs and Ultramarathons
In 2021 I wrote a blog post on the parallels between pursuing an MBA and running an ultra-marathon.
I was in the middle of the Weekend Executive MBA program and realized that walking into first-term courses like financial accounting reminded me of the uncertainty at the starting line of a race. Looking around the classroom, I assumed everyone else knew exactly what they were doing and I was the only one getting up to speed on depreciation and intangibles. Turns out I wasn’t. Most of us were figuring it out along the way.
Now that I’ve graduated (yep, I survived accounting!), I see a few other similarities to this running thing.
It’s Not About the Highlights
Going after a degree or any big life goal isn’t glamorous 99 percent of the time.
Most of the effort is behind the scenes—the tedious day in and day out of getting case studies done with your team, figuring out how to build a model using Crystal Ball, and missing sunny weekends to sit in classes.
We usually don’t say much about that part. Skimming through social media we mostly see highlight reels across our networks. Career announcements, promotions, and pictures with the Dean. Success sort of starts to look like this shiny, effortless thing.
I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to see all the low points. We don’t need to share the dark circles under our eyes after staying up late to work on a business plan. I don’t think anyone wants to see muddy socks and blisters after long hours on the trail. I guess I’ve recently been reminded of something we already know: There are no easy wins. It’s just getting back up and doing one more mile, one more late-night assignment. That’s a good thing.