B-“est.” It’s what Americans are raised to be; therefore, we’re a competitive bunch. But the price attached to being “the best” is a lifetime spent in relentless competition with nearly everyone.
Don’t get me wrong, I can be a competitive woman; I’ve writhed in many post-athletic-event-sore-loser tantrums in the past. A healthy amount of competition stretches one beyond perceived limits, but chronic competition can damage an individual’s ability to enjoy life at all due to fear of failure (or, heaven forbid, second-place) and paranoia associated with not being the [fill-in your root]-“est.” Essentially, fun surrenders to stress.
Still, moderating competitiveness is difficult; it can be especially difficult for two women running partners who were former college athletes. So much so, that during the first mile of our run, Michelle and I throw up excuses why we might potentially, well, suck. I state the usual, “I drank gin and ate nachos until midnight.” Says Michelle, “I forgot my inhaler.” Collectively, we chant: “didn’t sleep well” and “should have hydrated.”
I’m not sure why we recite this quasi-apology routine because neither of us wants an über-competitive running partner; Michelle knows that I’ll stop for photos, I know that she’ll stop to name wildflowers, and we both know that we’ll walk the steep inclines. Yet, we recycle excuses for our Lack of Amazingness In Trail Running Ability Plus Everything Else in Life.
No wonder Americans are a stressed bunch.
Competitive streaks die slow deaths, but our excuse-recitation is fading. And since we lowered our expectations to reasonable levels, no cramp, twisted ankle, or poor pre-run meal has ruined a ridge run for us this year. We stop often and laugh even more. We aren’t the fast-“est” on the trail, nor is the ridge the pretty-“est” of its kind, but superlatives don’t hold all the joy; an average day in the ordinary world contains much to delight.
Happy trail running.