It seems lawyers more than other people enjoy running long distances with no real destination in mind.
Some do it for physical exercise, some for stress relief, and others I suppose are running from the State Bar.
Some have no real idea why they are running. It is just something they do and have done for a long time. They feel off and cranky when they are unable to do it because of work, injuries, arthritic hips, etc.
I know of these things because I have been running for almost 50 years. That is half a century, which blows my mind. I was a slow runner when I began in junior high school – where anyone who stumbled onto the track was given a singlet, made a member of the track team and sent out to raise funds to pay the bus driver for out-of-town meets – and I have gotten progressively slower since.
But still I run.
The Power and Glory of the Race T-Shirt
The other day, while reading in NC Lawyer of charity 5K and 10K road race events sponsored by local bar groups around the state, I began thinking again of lawyers and running.
I first noticed the link between the two back in law school. Our student government association once sponsored a road race on the University of South Carolina campus, and practically every law student and faculty member participated. Most finished ahead of me, who as I recall ran in a pair of Hush Puppies that were the closest thing I owned to running shoes at the time.
This was after I had taken a short break from rigorous training, and by short break I mean four years of undergraduate school, also at USC, during which time I ran off and on but mostly off.
That law school road race was a wake-up call. Afterwards I went out and bought proper footwear and began running regularly. I am glad I did. To this day I recall delightful lopes through the leafy USC Horseshoe and around the majestic Capstone and Carolina Coliseum. In fact I would say running - with its physical, mental and contemplative benefits – was a big reason I survived law school.
I have been a fairly dedicated runner but never a fast one. Nevertheless I love the energy and atmosphere of road races, and over the years I have run and volunteered in lots of them.
An important aspect – some might say the most important part – of any fun run or half-marathon – is the t-shirt. I came to appreciate that fact when I served on the NCBA 5K Race T-Shirt Committee back in the 1990s.
When Lawyers Became Highway Workers
You might think a t-shirt is no big deal. If so, you’ve never known the responsibility of selecting the color, design and fabric weave for the complimentary shirts that would be worn by Supreme Court Justices, federal prosecutors and once a guy who flew a jetpack over the Grove Park Inn.
I was appointed to the NCBA 5K Race T-shirt Committee back when I was managing risks at Lawyers Mutual. My seat on the committee had been bought. Lawyers Mutual – and its subsidiary Lawyers Insurance Agency - sponsored the run. In the early years, my role consisted of sprinting back and forth from the fax machine to President John Q. Beard’s office with the latest t-shirt design mockup from the graphic designer.
Over time I was elevated to Delivery and Distribution. This meant I was in charge of hauling the half-dozen large heavy boxes of shirts to the convention, then rising at dawn to hand out shirts to race registrants.
Soon I was promoted to the Design Unit. There my creativity reached full flower. One year I proposed a flaming Arrow of Justice, and also a roadrunner with a briefcase. Both ideas were denied on appeal.
One year we chose black and gold as colors. This was a blatant attempt to pander to NCBA Executive Director and Wake Forest University luminary Allan Head, and it worked. Though some runners complained the shirts were heat-absorbent and, well, a bit dark for a summer dash.
The next year we went the other way and ordered NCBA race shirts of neon yellow and green. I will never forget the inspiring sight of what appeared to be an army of highway flagmen or crossing guards charging up that steep final rise in Asheville that grand, fluorescent summer.
Just Keep Moving
This year there was no running event at the NCBA meeting, but there were walks, hikes, yoga, tubing, dancing, tennis, golf and a hootenanny.
Even so, my guess is lots of lawyers rose early in the brisk Buncombe dawn or laced up late in the luminous dusk and took off for runs. They did it organized or not. They did it for their heart and lungs, and to get a break from the social commotion of the convention.
Most did not think about why, it was just something they had done for a long time and it had become part of who they are.
Jay Reeves has practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He has a drawer full of Lawyers Mutual/NCBA t-shirts and a life full of wonderful runs. He continues to hit the road at a gloriously glacial pace. Love Jay's article? Read more of his writing on Lawyers Mutual's Byte of Prevention Blog.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.