I ran a 5k once.

Once is the operative word.

I might do it again some day when the faint smell of impending death finally leaves my nostrils. The race was fine, it was the runner who had a problem.

I had always wanted to do it and wondered if I could. So when I turned 40, a friend of mine said he would run it with me. His company put on an annual 5K as a fundraiser for a local charity, and he had done it before.

So with the promise of a running buddy, I signed up. We trained separately, but on race day, he promised he would stay with me the whole time. I figured that promise would fade away once we got out there and the lure of a finish line and a good time would win over running alongside dead weight.

I was wrong. My friend John stayed with me every step of the way. And I do mean step. Because I ran some, walked some. Prayed—a lot. And the entire time I thought “my lungs are going to explode,” “my legs feel like they are made of lead,” and “is this how I’m going to die?”

5K seems so much shorter on a piece of paper. After all, 5K is like a really small computer file size. But on this particular course, 5K felt like an endless loop.

But I endured, finished the race, and got a t-shirt. It really was all about the finish line and that t-shirt. I was proud of that t-shirt. Now five years later, and a few pounds heavier, I don’t ever wear that shirt. But I survived.

Some seasons of life are like that. They seem okay, then you step in and it’s so much more than you realized it would be. It’s hard. It’s painful. You just want it to stop. But you have to see it through to the end. You have to endure. And as a parent, those seasons are part of life.

Endurance is a word associated with triathletes, not families. In fact, some might even take issue with it being used in that context.

I can’t imagine a wife being happy with her husband responding to a moment of time spent together by saying, “I endured it.”

Or a parent being happy with a child enduring the words of wisdom they are trying to impart.

But parenting and families require endurance. There are sexier words, like commitment, for example. But commitment feels like something in our head at times. Endurance feels like something that requires something of us—physically, mentally, emotionally.

And family requires enduring those seasons. Like illness. Or hormones. Or new freedoms. Or bad choices.

The t-shirts for this race are poop or vomit stained, or years out of fashion.

But you endure. You keep going. Because the cost of stopping is too great. The relationship with your kids is too important. You have to see them through.

When they’re younger, you may be holding their hand through the “race.”

And as they get older, seeing them through may be simply cheering on the sidelines and praying fervently as they take step after step on their own.

And if you have more than one child, you get to walk through those seasons in a different way with each different child.

It all requires endurance. Staying the course. Never leaving.

Seeing it through to the end.

Sometimes that involves running, other times it’s walking, limping or even crawling.

Because the race was meant to be finished.

And to do that, sometimes you just have to resolve to endure.