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During my M1 year, I’ve learned an enormous amount about biology and medicine, but I think I’ve learned the most from my classmates. It’s been an unbelievable experience. The class is full of people who have done interesting things, work hard, and thoroughly enjoy both life and medicine. Everyday, I learn something from a classmate through a story, their advice, or observing their interactions with peers and patients.

The running community I’ve built in Ann Arbor, after the Dexter to Ann Arbor Half Marathon. This group helps me stay grounded and be successful, and includes some of my best friends. From left: Noah, Sam, Jake, Paige, Jonathon (me!), and Luc.

With this in mind, I thought it was time to share a story of my past experiences, so I signed up for the Leadership curriculum’s “Story Series: Stepping outside my comfort zone.” These events are my favorite thing the medical school does. It’s a “Moth-style” story slam where medical students tell a story to teach their classmates in an informal setting.

I spent some time reflecting on what I’d learned by being a member of the Northwestern Club Cross Country and Track Teams as an undergraduate and decided to share this story. I joined the team my sophomore year even though I’d never run competitively before. I quickly realized I was the slowest on the team. This was hard for me because I had never been so bad at something compared to my peers for such a long period of time. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay on the team, or if the team wanted me.

However, as time passed and I got to know everyone, the team became my community. In fact, I realized that the team transformed my time at Northwestern and gave me some of my best friends. This experience helped me redefine what success meant to me. It wasn’t about winning races or being good at something, it was about finding a community, making friends, and being happy.

I’ve brought this new definition of success to Michigan with me. I still run almost every day, but I’m not really trying to race anymore. Instead, I’ve used running to build a community in Ann Arbor. I’ve met most of my best friends through running – there’s a group of eight other medical students I go running with almost every day. We talk about medical school, life, and plans for the weekend. We use running to relax and take a break from our studies. Though I may not be running at the same level I was, there’s no way I can think about the community running has given me here and say that I haven’t been successful in running.

Stepping up on stage to share this story was a tough thing to do. It’s easy to share our successes, but much more difficult to be vulnerable in front of the whole class. However, because I learn so much from my classmates, I decided to share. For medical students, I feel this story is important. We’re at the bottom of the hierarchy in the hospital – and we don’t know very much. So finding ways to persevere when things aren’t going well and find success in whatever form will continue to be incredibly important for our education.

Jonathon is a first year MD/PhD student at Michigan with an interest in neurodegeneration. On the weekends, you can find him on the Bird Hills trails going for a jog.