General Life · Life Philosophy

Redefining “Best”

On Friday, I ran a half marathon. It wasn’t an official event. I didn’t get a medal. I didn’t even really want to do it: I was feeling weak, and tired, and just a little bit grumpy. The weather was also not in my favor: while it was warm-ish and sunny, it was also incredibly windy. I knew that if I went out it would be tough going, and I’d be slow.

I did it anyway.

There were a couple of reasons for this: first and foremost, I wanted to “eat my frog”–that is to say, I wanted to get something unpleasant done so that I could properly enjoy the rest of my long weekend. (My employer had given us Friday off, making this a 4-day weekend.) This was going to be a hard run regardless of when it happened, so why not get it out of the way, instead of worrying about doing it later? I knew that scheduling would be tricky, but finally decided on Friday, so I could recover for a day or so before meeting a friend for a walk.

The other reason I wanted to do this was because I’ve been training for it for a while. One of my friends signed up for a half-marathon back in January, and I decided to do the same. It was partly to give her moral support, but it was also to encourage me to get back into running. Moving, and being sick for a while derailed my training, and the event was canceled. But I wanted to honor the training I had already done (and challenge myself!) so I decided to do the half just for the sake of doing it.

If we’re measuring by time alone, the outcome was predictably poor. This was, by a good 12 minutes, my worst half-marathon time–and that’s just if we measure measured activity time. My watch auto-pauses if you stop moving, so it was probably much worse than that. However, once I got home–and stopped laughing about the idea of shooting for a “personal worst”–I started to wonder if maybe I was looking at the wrong thing.

There’s a comic strip by Jef Mallett called Frazz that often has a philosophical bent to it. This strip in particular has had an impact on me since I saw in 16 years ago:

Frazz, by Jeff Mallett. Frazz speaks to a woman in a car and gives her complex directions that include many beautiful descriptions. As the woman drives off, Jane says, &quote;We're on miller road" to which Frazz replies &quote;She asked for the best route, not the fastest.&am;quot;
Frazz, by Jeff Mallett, 18th July, 2004

Looked at from the framework of “best means most sense pleasing” Friday’s half-marathon was a smashing success. While my body wasn’t super happy to be running, I wasn’t in a lot of pain or short of breath. The temperature was just about perfect, and I kept smelling all sorts of lovely things, like flowers, fresh-cut grass, and clean air. And the scenery was amazing.

I will take this over random Santa Monica neighborhoods and rock bands any day.
It was a bucolic run.
I’ll confess, I thought Rivendell would be fancier.

All in all, I think the run was a good one. And while it wasn’t my fastest half-marathon, I think it was definitely my favorite. And it gave me food for thought: Where else am I measuring the wrong thing as a metric for “best”?

How about you, friend? Any areas where your “best” should maybe be accounted something different?

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