Can years compete?

As we approach the end of 2023, another year, most of us tend to go into reflection mode. How was this year? Was it better than last year? The main question is: should we even compare? I don’t think we can.

In individual sports that are readily accessible to amateur persons, such as long distance running or triathlons, it can be difficult to discern who is the opponent. When training for a marathon, or even if it is for a local 5k run, we usually hear “don’t compare to others, you are racing against yourself”. This is evident when we talk about marathons, where a professional athlete can compete against an average Joe, under the exact same conditions. All participants of all levels run the same distance, the same course, the same day, with the same external elements.

Now, of course, results vary vastly. I will use myself as an example. I consider myself a casual runner. Running is my favorite sports to do, given how practical and simple it is. I am no super athlete, but I have three full marathons under my belt. My best time was at the Fort Lauderdale Marathon at ~4 hours exact. Compare that to the average finish time at the 2022, Boston Marathon, one of the most difficult to qualify for races. It was ~3 hours and 45 minutes. Not that far off, you might think. However, compare that to the record for any marathon race, and we are talking about ~2 hours. And most professional runners, get relatively close to that time. They’d practically lap me.

What this means is that an average Joe like myself, is considerably far from a professional, in a setting where all conditions are the same. It’d be absurd to compare my training and race times with the podium times. It would give me nom value. Therefore the general thought of “don’t compare yourself, you are racing against yourself and it is better to focus on your incremental improvement”. It’s really a scale thing, because **an absolute win, as in the fastest time in a marathon, is unattainable for most of us in spite of all conditions being equal**.

But average Joes still go out there, every day, and train and signup for marathons. This is because they are not after a podium, they are after different goals. Of course, some do it to raise money, other to say they have finished such a difficult taxing activity. Many of us do it, to simply, improve.

Now, back to the original topic and question. Can we compare years with previous years, should we focus on incremental improvements every year (which is still a comparison, but in time), or should we reflect in isolation? Can we say that 2023 was much better than 2020?

We can argue that years have all conditions equal. We are on the same earth, same time in history, across time. Similar to a marathon race, and as cliche as it sounds, life is a relatively long journey when measured in years. Therefore I think **we should avoid comparing each year with the previous year, or the year when we got married, or the year when my job gave me tons of professional success. We should focus on assessing and reflecting on each year in isolation; by itself**.

After all, not everything is a competition. For me , 2023 was a great year. Happy new year 2024.