Aside from the running we did in P.E. classes, Iíve never been in a race in the traditional sense of the word. I help with a charity 5K every year, so Iíve seen people stretch their legs across the finish line and then bow their heads to have volunteers place a medal around their necks.

And I run my own sorts of races. The kind where you work hard to finish school and then work hard to prove yourself in your career. The kind where you see others passing you by with better houses and nicer furniture. The kind where you just arenít sure where youíll rank at the finish line.

I notice other peopleís hurdles -- from a distance -- look smaller, and sometimes it seems people running the relay are given extra seconds on the clock because their teammates reached them sooner and set them up with better opportunities and better bank accounts.

Because Iím working hard, I expect my medal before I reach the finish line. I want praise and accomplishment at the 1K mark and at 2K and 2.5K.

The funny thing is real-life runners donít think that way. Of course, they all want to be first to cross the line but they mainly talk of breaking personal records, of doing better than they did last time -- of keeping their eyes in their own lane. And they have no interest in stopping every 10 minutes to collect a reward.

A runner will grab water from an outstretched hand and wave to a person holding an encouraging sign, but stopping for a medal would cost time and add weight. Who wants to carry that burden for miles? And who wants to put off reaching the finish line?

Some of the runners at the 5K have a drawer full of medals theyíve earned because they run year after year. Not one of them wears them during the race because it isnít the medals that help them run faster -- itís their faith in their training. Itís their knowledge that the race may be tough but they are strong enough to finish.

Maybe it shouldnít be so different for me and my race. Maybe I should have faith that God and I are strong enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe I should be thankful for the encouraging signs and thankful that the medal, the reward, is waiting at the finish line.

-- Marketta Gregory is a former religion reporter who canít stop writing about what is sacred and holy. She is a native of Oklahoma but makes her home in Rochester, New York, with her husband, two crazy boys and one very vocal Pomeranian. Find more of her writing at SimplyFaithful.com or check out her book, ďSimply Faithful: Finding the Sacred in Everyday Life.Ē