In the hallowed halls of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, my journey began with an enthusiastic group of colleagues, all of us eager to explore the intricacies of strategy and innovation. Our excitement was palpable, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic had just receded, allowing us to embrace the long-awaited return to in-person learning. This pandemic, an unprecedented global crisis, had irrevocably changed our lives, compelling us to adapt to a digital existence dominated by endless online meetings. Echoing Sir Winston Churchill's wise words, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste,’ we realised that the pandemic had catalysed a rapid digital transformation.
However, despite the prevailing 'New Normal,' a sense of nostalgia for pre-pandemic times lingered. We yearned for the tangible connections lost to virtual interactions – the warmth of real embraces, the camaraderie of shared meals and the simple joy of being in each other's physical presence. Saïd Business School offered us more than academic knowledge; it provided a holistic experience blending learning with personal connections.
As we progressed through the Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation, the inevitable end of our final module loomed. Eager to maximise our remaining time together, some of us sought a memorable event to mark the conclusion of this chapter. It was then that Alex Cheremukhin proposed participating in the Oxford Half Marathon. Initially hesitant due to a packed work schedule, I was persuaded by Alex's reminder of the unpredictability of future opportunities. Motivated, I rearranged my commitments and decided to join the marathon, alongside colleagues Lisa Berthelot, Anas Khan, Yuliya Tychkivska and Peter Tumureebire.
Forming a WhatsApp group, we spurred each other on, sharing tips and encouragement as we prepared for the race. This endeavor resonated deeply with the Latin proverb ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ (A sound mind in a sound body), emphasising the importance of physical wellbeing in complementing mental acuity. Training for the marathon symbolised our collective pursuit of holistic development, enhancing our Oxford experience beyond the academic realm.
The marathon day arrived and with it came a profound sense of achievement as we crossed the finish line, many of us completing a half marathon for the first time. This accomplishment was not just a physical feat; it was a vivid demonstration of our shared resilience and determination, a memory etched indelibly in our hearts.
Our Oxford journey was not confined to intellectual growth within the classroom. It extended to invaluable life lessons and insights, fostering a deep bond amongst us. The fleeting nature of our year at Oxford only amplified these experiences, facilitating rapid personal and professional growth.
Oxford is more than an academic sanctuary; it is a vibrant ecosystem that fosters intense focus and learning. The city's ancient architecture provides a serene backdrop, a symbolic barrier against mundane concerns, allowing students to immerse themselves in their studies fully.
Participating in the Oxford Half Marathon was not merely about earning a medal; it was a symbolic race through life, cheered on by supportive spectators. This experience, perhaps overly sentimental to some, represented the culmination of our transformative journey studying the Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation at Oxford – a journey marked by intellectual growth, physical challenges and the forging of lifelong friendships.