I’ve never been super athletic, but I’ve always thought it would be cool to train for a 5k marathon. The idea of running a marathon is appealing to me because it tends to show what kind of shape you’re in, and the kind of training that you’ve been implementing regularly. You can’t just wake up and run marathons, unless you just “got it like that,” which most of us don’t. Remaining fit takes work, but running a marathon takes another level of will-power and determination to complete. To run a marathon, your endurance has to be built up, because you’re really racing against yourself as opposed to others.
Grad school is like a marathon. The academic and physical training that you do to prepare for the research and time that it takes to complete matters. There is no competition with others that can compare to the competition that you assume with yourself. Each year of grad school presents an opportunity to get better, work smarter, and expand on a research idea that made the marathon appealing to you in the first place. In the end, as you matriculate and hone in on your craft, the marathon gets easier to run. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing something that you’ve always wanted through to the finish line.