Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to run. She wasn't a "natural" runner; didn't look the part, wasn't particularly fast. In fact, people were sometimes surprised to learn she was a runner at all. But she loved it just the same. And she worked really hard at it, too.
Over time, over miles, over races short and long, she improved, little by little. She set goals. She worked toward them, day after day. She watched her times drop at every distance. Eventually, she actually became a kind of good runner. There was quite a string of time where she consistently won her age group, finished among the top ten women, won a few races herself. Her lucky 13th marathon was the Holy Grail of Boston.
Exactly one year later her knees were in an MRI machine.
Running changed then. She still loved it, to be sure. But it was harder now. Painful. A struggle. She was slower than she had ever been. It was frustrating. And, even though she put on a brave face and said all the right things to make everyone think she was fine, she was sad. And she let herself be sad for a very long time.
Then one day, she decided she didn't want to be sad anymore. Being sad was a waste of time. She could still run after all. Even if it was slow, she could still run. Even if it involved new rituals, she could still run. And, after all, she still loved to run.
So she set her mind and her heart, and she went back to work. And it was still hard, but it somehow didn't seem as difficult anymore.
And one day, she decided it was time to be brave and sign up for a race again. A 5k, just to remember what it was like to run a race. It scared her. She was afraid of making a fool of herself, of being the slowest person there, of people pointing and whispering (things like "didn't she used to be good?"). But she got up early on Saturday morning, laced up her running shoes, and toed the line anyway.
And she did what she had done in every race she had ever participated in - she ran. When she got to the one mile mark, she noticed the clock was already showing double digits. But this oddly didn't upset her, or anger her, or depress her. When she got to the two mile mark, she realized that once (upon a time) she would have already been done with the race. But this oddly didn't upset her, or anger her, or depress her. Instead she took stock: Do I feel okay? Yes. Would it be possible for me to run any faster than I am? No, not today. So? Keep running.
And she did. She ran the slowest 5k she had ever run. But this oddly didn't upset her, or anger her, or depress her. After all, it was the best she could do on that day.
Will she ever be faster? Will she ever get better? Will her times ever improve? Maybe. Maybe not.
It turns out it doesn't really matter.
One day she was fast. That day is over.
One day she was slow. That day is over.
But every day, she loves to run.
So she does.