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Lessons learned from distance running carry over to legal practice

Julie R. Rubin

Julie Rubin has a lot on her plate.

She’s a partner at Astrachan Gunst Thomas Rubin PC in Baltimore, teaches law courses at the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, writes a monthly column for SmartCEO magazine and sits on a slew of boards and committees. On top of it all, Rubin regularly whips up homemade meals for friends and family.

But when Rubin laces up her sneakers for a long run around the city, her schedule doesn’t seem so strenuous. Both a competitive and recreational long-distance runner, Rubin finds her happy place on the pavement, but her hobby improves more than her personal well-being. She also hones skills with undeniable parallels to those she uses at the office.

“The single greatest lesson is that I have stamina, whether it’s literal or physical, to work a long day,” she said. “Running is as much mental as physical, perhaps more. And when something is really difficult or poses a mental challenge, to keep going I really think that I tap into my experience as a runner. … I know I can overcome that sort of mental drain because I’ve done it before while running. Midway through a race you might think, ‘I need to stop,’ but you keep going.”

A friend from law school introduced her to long-distance running about 11 years ago, and after the first few weeks of sore muscles and exhausted lungs, the benefits of practicing an endurance sport began to win her over. She felt less stressed, more clearheaded and totally guiltless about indulging in homemade treats. She was hooked.

“It really became my sort of meditation,” she said. “Others do yoga and I hit the road.”

When not working in her East Redwood Street office or hosting large dinner parties with her husband, the 38-year-old Baltimore native is likely to be running around the Inner Harbor — she said she prefers running by the water more than anywhere else — through Fort McHenry or around Canton, where she lives.

An athlete in high school and college, Rubin said she’s always made fitness a priority, but has taken her long-distance running to another level. She said she wakes up at 5 a.m. about five times a week, motivated to jumpstart her day with a morning run.

“I usually end up returning to the house with a clear head and a positive outlook so I feel better prepared to attack my day,” she said. “I’m in a better mood and it makes me feel that problems are more surmountable and challenges aren’t as difficult. I like that satisfaction of having worked out and having a good sweat. ”

She logs 35 to 40 miles a week, which she said keeps her in good enough shape to run half-marathons with ease. She’s completed more 10-mile races and half-marathons than she can count, and has four full marathons under her belt, as well.

Rubin has raced all over the country, including in California’s Napa Valley and in Jacksonville, Fla., but also closer to home. In the 2004 Baltimore Marathon she raised money for leukemia and lymphoma, and Rubin has taken home first place three times in the Maryland State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers 10k Sun Run in Ocean City.

Though she sometimes runs with a friend, Rubin said she savors the time for self-reflection when running solo. All that time pounding pavement also gives her an opportunity to puzzle through details of her commercial litigation cases, especially the “juicy facts” of complex contract disputes, her favorite.

“Sometimes I’ll come up with a creative solution for a case or I’ll remember important things I need to get done,” she said. “Other times, it’s compete brain turnoff — total relaxation.”