In honour of the first annual Osler Homecoming Run, held at the Faculty on October 13, Focus Online investigates a hidden side of the McGill Law community: marathon-running.

McGill law students, along with several alumni and runners from Osler, who sponsored the event, met outside the Currie Gym on Saturday morning of Homecoming for a brisk run up the Mountain. From L to R: Me Eric Préfontaine (Osler), David Wilson, Steve Payette and service dog Medley, Helen Kneale, Daniel Litwin, Sophie Amyot (Osler), David Rappaport, Julien Morissette (BCL/LLB’08, Osler), Carole Gilbert, Alexandra Olshefshy, Alexandre Lessard, Marie-Laure Tapp, Patrick Reynaud (BCL/LLB’12, Osler), Olga Redko, Marco Garofalo, Rachel Atkinson, Alexander Spraggs, and Eloïse Gagné. Photo credit: Laure Prévost.

Just what is it about the law that inspires people to run, long and hard? No, they’re not outlaws fleeing from justice. They’re law students, law professors and practicing lawyers. And they’re rising before dawn to hit the pavement before they hit the books, the office and the court.

Current student Anne Karine Dabo, now in her final year at the Faculty, finished her first marathon in 2010 with a respectable time of 4hrs, 6 minutes. “It wasn’t easy,” she recalls, especially considering that she had trained for the 42-kilometre run during another kind of marathon, known as first-year law school. “Actually, I find that running really relaxed me and helped me deal with the pressure of first-year,” she said. “It was a complementary thing, it really helped counter-balance the course work.”

Is there a connection between the character traits needed for law school and for marathon running? “Oh, totally,” she says. “They have a lot in common. For one thing, it’s a gradual process to become a runner, and also to learn to read a case, to understand it, to ‘think like a lawyer.’” Far from being a drain or distraction, Dabo thinks that the time spent running helps with her studies. “Law school material runs through my mind as I train,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to meditate on an issue, formulate my thoughts, and reflect on what’s key.”

Third-year student Siena Anstis, who ran this year’s Montreal Marathon in a mere two hours, 57 minutes, would agree. As with any serious challenge, “you have to be constantly and consistently diligent,” she says. “You have to take it slow and steady, and you have to be quite determined.”

In that regard, Anstis sees a clear connection between marathon running and law school, particularly when it comes to hitting ‘The Wall’:  “Towards the end of the  marathon, around 32-K, your body shuts off, and all you have is your mind to keep you moving,” she says. “In law school, this usually happens mid-November: It’s getting cold, it’s getting dark, you’ve been going at the same pace for two months, and you start to flag. It’s the wall. And you just have to push through it.”

Thirteen years after finishing law school, alumnus Pete Wiazowski (BCL’99, LLB’99)  still enjoys the benefits of long-distance running. In fact, he hoofs it each morning from Monkland Village to his office at Norton Rose, where he is a partner specializing in corporate finance and securities.

He also runs 42 km every single Sunday.

A veteran runner with a dozen marathons behind him, including Boston, Chicago, London and Paris, Wiazowski finished the Montreal Marathon this year in just three hours, seven minutes. For him, regular long runs are “an opportunity to gather my thoughts. Psychologically it’s a nice release.” He also uses the time to listen to work-related podcasts. “It’s a block of time that’s not only healthy but can be deployed for useful purposes,” he says.

The tricky thing, says the father of three young kids, is to balance family life with both career and marathon-running. “The deal with my spouse, who is herself a marathoner, is that my running has to happen early in the morning, before all hell breaks loose at home,” he says. “Ingrid tells me: ‘Go have fun on your crazy little runs, but be home by eight, or don’t bother coming home at all!’”

While it’s not uncommon for him to finish a run and jump straight into the car to bring his eldest son to hockey practice, he admits, “we have very carefully, very methodically planned how everything will fall into place, and we appear to have found a sort-of workable solution.”

Clearly, impeccable time-management skills are key for anyone in a high-performance career, but doubly so for those who are also high-performance athletes. Just ask Jordan Waxman (LLB’91, BCL’92), who was the centerpiece of a 2011 Wall Street Journal article on the impact a parent’s demanding exercise schedule can have on family life.

Married, with three children, Waxman is a senior vice president with Merrill Lynch Private banking in New York. He is also an Ironman world champion (2007) and a leading endurance swimmer, having successfully crossed the English Channel and circumnavigated the island of Manhattan, both in 2010.

Waxman has juggled professional, athletic and family obligations throughout his career, while also keeping close ties with McGill—for instance he recently established the Jordan H. Waxman Entrance Scholarship for law students who have shown leadership in extracurricular and community activities.

It seems there’s something about marathons. In fact, long-distance-running is quickly becoming a fixture at the Faculty of Law. There is an informal group of law students who stretch their legs on the Mountain every Saturday morning. This year, some of its members helped organize a ‘fun run’ to coincide with the first-ever Law Homecoming.

“The Osler Homecoming Race was inspired by Yale’s Homecoming Run,” says one of the organizers, Laure Prévost, herself a runner. “It was added to the Homecoming list of events to allow alumni to network with current students in a healthy way.”

« L’objectif était de faire 5 km, mais on en a fait 7 ou 8 environ, » said alumna Catherine Bleau (BCL/LLB’04), regional manager of associate and student programs at Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP, who sponsored the inaugural alumni event. « Je cours trois ou quatre fois par semaine, » says Bleau, « mais mon collègue, Eric Préfontaine, fait des marathons régulièrement depuis 2005, alors il a été désigné comme meneur ce matin-là! »

Along with a large group of runners from the Faculty, Bleau and Préfontaine joined several Osler colleagues who are also McGill students or alumni, including litigation associate Julien Morissette (BCL/LLB’08) and articling student Patrick Reynaud (BCL/LLB’12), as well as current law students David Wilson and Christopher Greenaway who worked as summer students at Osler, for a brisk run on the mountain, following the trail up to the lookout and back down again.

Alumni are invited to join us next year for the Faculty of Law’s Homecoming Run. And if you would like to share your own marathon-running stories with the alumni magazine, please drop us an AlumNote:

By Bridget Wayland