A third of the way through the program, class weeks continue to be as intense and exhilarating as ever. I like to think that a class week is like running a 10k race - and setting a personal best time.
First of all, you have to train diligently in the weeks leading up to the race. Typically, two subjects are taught in any one class week, and you also have exams on the Monday for the courses you did the previous class week. Unprepared runners rarely finish well.
Athletes generally get in 2-3 training sessions of an hour or two during the week, and then have a long, slow run on a weekend day, to get the body used to going the full distance. Similarly, you will do some short, fairly focused bursts of study during the week after work, and then slog your way through a ton of detailed exercises at the weekend for hours. Interval training or doing a few kilometres at race pace (attempting past papers and timing yourself while doing so) are also popular strategies.
Coming up to the race, you need to taper - studying like mad the night before an exam never does anyone any favours. You'll get plenty of sleep, reduce stress during the days beforehand, and eat lots of carbs (students can skip this last part, it's for runners only, but it's fun. It also REALLY WORKS for running. Trust me).
Ok, so it's race day. You have a decent breakfast, and straight away it's up a massive hill with 2 exams. The trick here is to pace yourself so you can keep going all day and make it to the top. Remember that this is the most challenging part of the race. Enjoy the view when you get to the summit.
From there it's long slow slog to the end, pretty much on the flat. You'll have assignments every night and be up til late. Remember that sprinting to get an excellent time on kilometre 5 may cost you quite a bit towards the end. You need to be alert during classes, review sessions and work with your study group to get your nightly group assignments completed by a sensible time, even if they are not perfect or you feel you could have done better. Staying in the study room til 1am on the Wednesday night is not a smart strategy.
Choose your roadside snack wisely. The Danish pastries are tasty but on their own won't keep you going til lunchtime. You are also allowed to have enough caffeine in your body to have you to fail an anti-doping test in an actual race.
As the race continues and the days go by, you and your classmates will start to feel more and more tired. By the Saturday all you really care about is the finish line, and how far away it is. You'll finish your final class of the day and think, “We made it! Again!” and feel proud of yourself.
Like a UK athlete, you then will celebrate this your “race” by partying til late with your fellow students.
Donnla Nic Gearailt