Rodrigo Navarro







By Rodrigo Navarro

The MFE: My personal “Academic” marathon.

I really like being challenged, that was probably the most influential reason of why I decided to apply to the MFE program almost 18 months ago. This was also one of the main reasons of why four years ago I became a marathon runner. Two days ago I ran my fifth full Marathon in Paris, it was definitively a special one, not just because I had the opportunity to run 42.195Km in one of the most beautiful cities in the world or because running such marathon involved training on the cold rainy mornings of Hillary Term (trust me on this one, running at least 10Km at a temperature of 4°c six days per week is not as fun as it sounds). This marathon was really special to me because it made me realize all the similarities there are between the MFE program and running a Marathon.

First, let me give you an idea of how these past couples of weeks have been. Hillary Term ended in the third week of March, meaning that from there on, we wouldn’t be taught any new topics and we had to start revising for the exams, which will take place at the start of Trinity Term (Last week of April), this study period has been really intense and stressful. Being honest, during the last three weeks I felt that the more I revised, the more questions I had on the material; the more I went through the problem sets or past papers I felt that I knew less about the examinable topics. After sharing this perception and my concerns with friends and family, my dad gave me a really good suggestion, he said I was approaching the exams with fear, when I should be approaching them feeling excited.

At the moment what my dad said didn’t make much sense, however, last Sunday everything came to place. I was about to run my fifth marathon, I arrived to the starting point at Arc de Triomphe around 8:15 am, my start corral was supposed to start the marathon at 9:30 but I wanted to do some stretching and warming exercises before that. As I began my stretching routine, my starting corral was filling up and the Pump-Up music began filling the environment. In that moment I realized that my dad was right. As a runner before starting the marathon you don’t feel nervous or frightened at all, you feel incredibly excited!

Of course that every runner who is about to start running a marathon knows that he is about to face a difficult challenge, nobody said that running 42Km was easy, however, every runner that is taking place at the starting line, knows deep inside, that he is able to complete the distance. As a runner, you feel excited when you’re about to start running a marathon because you know you’re about to achieve something extraordinary. In a similar way, being about to present the exams for the MFE Core Courses should be a cause of excitement, we are about to achieve what was once a dream for most of us.

Enrolling in the MFE program involves being away from home and not having the direct support of friends and family during hard times such as job application rejections or a bad result in any of the deliverables. Running a marathon in a city far from home involves a similar challenge, you don’t have your loved ones cheering up for you when you’re hitting the “30th Kilometre wall” or when you need water in the 25th Kilometre, however, you do get encouragement from the fellow runners and spectators. In an analogous way in the last 7 months I have received support and friendship from my MFE classmates, those people who I didn’t know one year ago are now close friends who have encouraged me to go on in difficult times.

When running a marathon, you don’t think about winning, it is not about defeating the other runners. Running a marathon is about defeating the voice inside your head that begs you to stop after the 35th Kilometre. In a comparable way, I don’t think the MFE is about who gets the best grades, but about competing against yourself to get the best result you can, feeling satisfied about giving your best effort.

Each training program is different, some runners prioritize the “strength sessions”, others focus on speed or resistance; some runners like to run in groups, while some others prefer running on their own, some runners use running apps to follow and reporting their training while others prefer “old school” methods… Much the same, each MFE Oxford experience is different, some students like being involved with their college’s MCR, some others prefer networking in the Business School; some people take part in sport teams, some others attend events at the Oxford Union; some people never miss the opportunity of attending a Formal Hall College dinner, while others like attending networking events with potential employers. Everyone has the same overall goal, which is getting the degree at the end of this year, however each one of us has a different way of enjoying and taking the most out of our year at Oxford.

Finally, the biggest limitation you have when running a marathon is inside your head. As Henry Ford would say: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right”. Once you truly believe you can do it, you will finish the marathon; once you realize the task is not impossible, you will be able to do it. In the same way, two years ago I thought that it would be impossible for me to be accepted by the University of Oxford, but it turned out that it was not impossible at all; once you start trusting your capabilities and realize all the hard work you have put into the program in the last seven months, you will realize that you will do a good job on the exams that you used to consider impossible.

Three weeks ago I thought the exams were impossible and that I would need a miracle in order to get the degree. That’s not the case anymore, as I continue my revision for the exams I am not frightened by them, I honestly feel the same way I felt last Sunday in Champs Elysees, a few minutes before starting the marathon with Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ sounding in the background, I feel excited about this new challenge!


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