M is a good friend and a good running partner for a lot of reasons. She brings a lot of motivation. I don’t know anyone more excited to run as much and as often as she is. She is constantly scheming new challenges, always on the lookout for new trails, and always willing to go along with my dumb ideas, too.

We run roughly the same pace, and neither of us gets too ego-hurt if the other is faster on a given day. We manage to agree on most running plans, because we’re after the same things.

Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we don’t. Either way, just fine.

And both of us depend on movement for our base-level sanity. Her husband and my wife, they know. We have to go. Whether it’s a bulwark against depression or just a way to unwind all the nervous energy bristling beneath the surface, the run is a way to make home life better.

When we can’t run, because one or the other of us is injured, we both suffer. An injury tests everyone’s patience, friends, spouses, children.

At the moment, we are both hurt, me with a cracked rib, her with a mysterious knee complaint, so no running is happening. The texts fly back and forth, “You doing ok?” and “How’s your mental state?”

We both know that the other person is willing to hurt, maybe even to prolong the injury, to keep running, so we also cajole each other to rest, to be patient, to be smart.

Neither of us is particularly smart when it comes to anything other than putting one foot in front of the other.

But today M said something very smart.

I was expressing my deep frustration and insecurity, a fear that every injury is essentially a waste of precious trail time and that I am rapidly losing hard won fitness.

She said, “Injuries are part of the greater lesson, as is finding the way back.”

I wrote it down.

We often take a wrong turn in the woods, cost ourselves some time, double-back, stop, scratch our heads, talk it out, consult a map. We can laugh about those things, even enjoy them in the moment.

Once a run has started, you have to let go of the outcome, right? The longer the run, the less certain the result. Embrace it. Go slow when you have to. Go fast when you’re in the flow. Whatever. Just go out there and see what happens.

Sometimes you get hurt. It’s a detour you didn’t expect, but if you double-back, rest, walk a bit, talk it out, you might still be ok, and even if you’re not ok, well, that’s part of it sometimes too.