In the days when I used to participate with some frequency in area 5K road races, it would not be uncommon to hear someone say those two words as runners neared the finish line.
"Finish strong! Finish strong!"
You would hear those words, usually accompanied by some hand clapping and maybe a "Good job!" "Way to go!" "Almost home" thrown in for good measure.
When I'd hear those words of encouragement, I'd process them for the most part with a sense of gratitude, thinking, gee, that's pretty nice that people - usually total strangers here, mind you - are standing on the sidelines cheering others on.
That's pretty special.
But other times, I'd take it with a grain of sea salt and think, yeah right, easy for you to say.
You "finish strong," I'd think nastily to myself, depending on how tired I felt.
Many have been the times when my running sister and I have chuckled over road race experiences where well-intentioned spectators cheering participants on will say something like "hang in there - just another mile or so to go" as if that's nothing.
Just another mile or so?
Heck, that's kind of a long way when you've already run a couple before it, the two of us have wisecracked about.
All this went through my head Wednesday evening, prior to having written this, before I had any glimmer of what thoughts would even fill today's space because I had no inkling of inspiration.
I was feeling whipped - emotionally, mentally, physically. Tired, tired, tired.
All I knew after the stressful day that it had been was that, God help me, a stolen run would surely do me good, would put life back in perspective, would get the feel-good endorphins going, and I could carry on.
Onward and upward.
I think I knew, too, that a New Testament verse would return to my consciousness - Hebrews 12:1 - "Run with endurance the race set before you."
That's a verse that's meant different things at different times of my life.
Now it's a "care giving" race I'm running, a challenging course of steep hills and sometimes what seems like no recovery areas in sight.
Some days I think I'm going to pooh out, not be able to make the hills much less the straight stretches.
But I keep going, knowing it's OK if I do have to stop, take a deep breath, regroove, get my bearings, start anew.
Other days I have a big old pity party, and I'm the guest of honor.
But God's grace is new every morning.
The mail brings a card, the phone a call, the door a knock with a friendly face on the other side.
I will run with endurance.
And I will finish strong.
(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)