One summer, I was training and racing with a friend named John. In the middle of epic blocks of training, we hopped in a few races to test our fitness and they all went surprisingly well. John and I blabbered excitedly– imagine how fast we could run once we start peaking, imagine how fast we’ll run in the years ahead, imagine all the possibilities.

Neither of us have run as fast as did in those races that summer.

I’ve tried, time and again, to get that same fitness back to no avail. Finally, years later, after a block of mediocre training I ran a race on the beach and ran my slowest time ever. I cooled down on the sand, put my feet in the waves and thought “This is it. I tried, I really tried, but I’ll never get faster.”

The thought that I could have been so casual, so dismissive of that summer years ago, of what would turn out to be the pinnacle of a decade long endeavor, shook me. It felt like the death of a friend, a friend who had moved away and you always assumed you’d see them again.

The waves washed over my feet. I stared off at the horizon. It hit me, then, that my friend wasn’t dead. Not yet. I had strength enough to keep trying, at least one more time. But this time, I wouldn’t be so dismissive, so casual.

Even if I never got close to the fitness of years past, it was the state of forward, the commitment to progression, that mattered. I would not take it for granted.

A year later, thousands of miles later, I sat on that same beach having finished an epic run to the ocean. I was not in the same shape as that summer all those years ago, but I was in good shape, and it was a fine thing to be. I watched new friends, training partners, play in the surf. Waves washed over my feet. I stared at the horizon. It hit me, then, that I had given it a shot and taken not a single moment of it for granted. I had cherished the time I had with that friend. I could say goodbye, now, if I wanted.

But I didn’t want to. Not yet.