Down Home: My ‘last best day’

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An old podcast swirled through my head during an early-morning run last week. The topic was “The Last Best Day.” I think it appeared on Fresh Air, but maybe it was Radiolab. At any rate, the guest talked about the very last time in your life you do something the very best you’ll ever do it. 

It’s often called a “personal record” or a “personal best.” It’s your fastest run or your lowest round of golf. Maybe your largest catch of fish, pitching a perfect game or a splendid hand of 42. Hard as you try, you never reach that peak again.

In my case, it was a half-marathon, 13.1 miles, I ran two and a half years ago.

Preparing to run my first full marathon

Ironically, I heard the podcast about the last best day earlier in the week. That fall, I was preparing to run my first full marathon, 26.2 miles. By that point, I’d already completed training runs of 18, 19 and 20 miles. So, 13.1 seemed pretty easy. I was in the best shape of my life, and I lowered my previous personal record by a couple of minutes. I was elated.

Walking across the parking lot to my car, I got to thinking about that guy in the podcast and about my own “last best day.” I wondered when it would occur, figuring it would happen far in the future. I’d been running half marathons for almost three years. And even though I was getting older, I was learning how to train better and to run smarter. So, I consistently lowered my times. Based upon my experience, I counted on continuing to improve for several years.

Well, one surgery and two injuries later, I’ve never come close to running as fast for as far as I did that beautiful autumn morning. I still pursue glorious goals, but that may have been my last best day for running.

Have you thought about your last best day? Maybe not for running, but for practically anything. When do you think you’ll do something special the best you’ll ever do it?

Of course, we can obsess on this. America goes nuts for “bests,” and Christians are as deeply ingrained in that culture as anyone. 

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Any day can be the ‘last best day’ for something

On the other hand, any day could be the last best day for something. For kissing someone you love. For singing along in church. For doing whatever it is you do at work or tending the lawn. For telling a joke, baking a pie or cleaning the oven. For waxing the car or walking the dog.

If we live with the last best day in mind, maybe we’ll appreciate each day a little more. We’ll be quicker to count our blessings, more prone to pray, “Thank you, God.”

If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you know I’m kind of sentimental. No, I’m down-right sappy. So, you won’t be surprised to know I choke up a little bit every time I start a road race, and I feel almost that way when I start out running through my neighborhood.

Who cares how fast I run? I’m enormously blessed to possess legs and lungs and stamina to get up and run. To feel the wind blowing through my … around my scalp. To slip into a zone of solitude, where I hear my own breath and listen for the voice of God in the chirping of birds.

The last best day only happens rarely—only once for everything special in our lives. But when we live in last-best-day awareness, we’re attuned to the blessings of every day. 

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