The beautiful teenage track star readies herself for the championship race. This contest will determine whether Holland Reynolds’s high school cross country team will win an eighth state championship.

Next to her, coach Jim Tracy displays a pensive look. He hobbles slightly as he gives his final words of advice. Tracy has recently received a diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Fast forward to the last fifty yards of the race. The crowd cheers wildly, eagerly watching as each runner emerges from the woods. Slowly, a figure appears, awkwardly inching forward.

A few meters shy of the finish line, Reynolds collapses, suffering severe dehydration.

An official approaches. He tells Reynolds that any help that she receives will disqualify her, which would cause her team to lose the state championship.

Reynolds musters her strength and begins crawling forward again. The crowd erupts in pandemonium.

Slowly, Reynolds crosses the finish line, securing the points needed for her team to claim the state championship — a climactic victory in honor of their beloved coach.

*          *          *

“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” the Book of Hebrews says. Odd as it may sound to run a race with “patience,” the key is to finish.

Long before Charlie Sheen offered his own version of winning, St. Paul gave this definition: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

Fighting doubt and self means failing to live our faith as Christ lived it, even for a saint: “I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it,” Paul said, “Instead, I do what I hate.”

We all struggle, sometimes alone. Often, the best we can hope to accomplish — after summoning all available strength and grit — is to crawl across the finish line.

Still, sometimes to win a race, all we need to do is finish. Fight the good fight. Finish the course. Keep the faith.

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