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The 400 meter dash is considered by many athletes and coaches alike to be the most difficult track event of all. It is a one lap sprint around the track that requires true grit - both physically and mentally. What sets this particular race apart is the combination of speed and endurance that it requires.

This isn't a race you do just for the fun of it.

This isn't a race you do just because you are fast.

This isn't a race you do just because you have endurance.

This is a race you were built for and you train your body hour after hour, month after month until you know exactly how each split is supposed to feel so when race day comes, you can tell your mind that it doesn't get to decide when you are done. If you run this race, you're all in.

More than most races, the 400 meter is a head game.

I know this first hand. For 6 years, I had the satisfaction of running the 400 and running it well. My times placed me top in state each year in high school, and earned me an athletic scholarship to a Division I university. But without fail, every single time I ran that race, when I came around that last curve, my mind screamed: "Why did you sign up for this? This is too much!".

That mental battle on the last 100 meter straight-away is something that every runner faces during the 400. Your heart feels like it's beating out of your chest, your lungs are on fire as you lack oxygen, your legs feels like limp noodles, and your body feels heavy...your mind begs you to stop and fall over - that you have absolutely nothing left to give. This is the moment that runners call "hitting the wall". It is an appropriate name; because, if you are watching from the stands, you will see runners coming around the final curve seemingly strong and despite their continued sprinting, you can actually see their bodies instantaneously slow down at one point as if they hit a wall and kept running through it. One by one, each athlete hits the wall at different times. But none-the-less they hit it on or near that last 100 meters.

More than any other moment in the race, that's when the runner wants to give up...The hitting-the-wall moment.

But there's something that happens at that exact moment too. You come around the corner where the stands are. For the first time since you started the race, you hear the roar of the crowd. And with the roar comes the answer to your earlier question. You signed up for this crazy race because you were made for this - you trained for this. You want to win. Your eyes are now on that finish line and you want to finish strong. The crowd cheering invigorates you, and despite feeling like you have nothing left to give, you somehow find the strength to keep pushing. You battle within yourself for the remainder of the race, commanding your body to keep going and listening to the crowd cheering you on to the finish line.

I probably don't do it justice, but it's a moment that you never forget the feeling of. 10 years later, I think back - I can still feel it...I can still hear my mom's voice in the midst of the crowd as she yelled a phrase that spoke just what I needed and bolstered my resolve: "Stay strong Catrina! Stay strong!".

Every single time I ran that race, as I came around that last curve and hit the wall, my mom yelled that phrase in the moment that I most needed it.

"Stay strong Catrina! Stay strong!".

My junior year, I was in the qualifying race to go to state - it was a race that will probably stand out to me for my entire life. Only the top two would get to go to the state meet. This girl from another team and I had been the top two qualifiers for the two years prior. We didn't really know each other on any personal level, but we had a special bond from running the same race to qualify for state in the years before.

As we got into our positions to start the race she walked by me and whispered: "You and me. Let's do this.". At the moment, I thought she was just being nice. But little did I realize she really meant it. As we came around that last curve, we each hit-the-wall and we heard the roar of the crowd. My ears found the sound of my mom's voice - "Stay Strong Catrina! Stay strong!". One by one we passed other runners. The other girl was the first across the line. She did something that completely surprised me. Unlike most 400 runners who try to gather themselves together from utter exhaustion, as soon she crossed the finish line, she turned around, looked me dead in the eyes, held her arms out and leaned forward cheering for me in my final steps. The moment I crossed the line she hugged me with utter excitement, picking me up off the ground, and yelled "we did it!".

Boy - we need that in life!

Could you imagine what it would be like if we as fellow believers did that for and with each other? The Bible spells it out for us, and experience reminds us - in this life we will experience hardships, temptations, and persecutions. The Christian life isn't for the faint of heart. It's not something you casually do. If you do it, you're all in. Heart, mind, body, and soul.

As fellow believers, we know that the race set before us is going to have plenty of "hit-the-wall" moments. The moments when we feel like we have nothing left to give and we're done. The moments when we question it all. The moments when we want to fight to do what's right, but everything within us screams to just give in to our weakness. We intimately know the inner struggle that those moments bring. We know that it's not a matter of if, but when they come. Those are the moments that remind us of a simple truth: we need each other.

The Christian life is not meant to be a solo journey. It might be a personal journey, but it is not a solo one. We have been adopted into the family. We are one body. When one of us struggles, we should be coming beside, encouraging one another, reminding each other of the life giving, invigorating, gospel truths that bolster our souls. When one of us does well in a season, we should turn around to those behind us arms wide open, looking them in the eye, cheering them on, waiting to embrace them! Unity is about more than just getting along or putting up with one another. It isn't just not devouring and biting at each other. It's actually building each other up. Unity is intentionally running the race together, spurring each other on in the midst of the hard parts. Unity is watching for the hit-the-wall moments and being ready to speak truth and encouragement to the person ready to give up. Unity is reminding each other - we aren't alone. In the good or the bad. It's the thing that makes the journey sweet.

Stay Strong Friend.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds"

-Hebrews 10:24

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