By the time you read this, Iíll be close to quitting.

No, not quitting this column or even this life. Iíll be near quitting the crazy race Iím running with my running group, Runniní for Rhett (www.runninforrhett.org).

The race is the California International Marathon, and itís been held in Sacramento for the past 30 years on the first Sunday in December. As marathons go, this one is popular for its lack of hills. Many runners use the net drop in elevation to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but Iím just hoping to finish in five hours and remove it from my ďbucket list.Ē

No, this isnít a sports column. Itís still a spiritual column, but this time Iím not giving spiritual support, Iím asking for it. I figure that telling you and a few hundred thousand other readers that Iím running a 26-mile race is insurance against quitting.

Still, if youíre prone to bet, there are several reasons you might not want to place your spiritual currency on me to finish. For instance, weíve trained for 16 weeks, but Iíve missed much of the coaching sessions because I was deployed or vacationing.

Plus, itís supposed to rain. For the past several weeks, Iíve been telling my coaches, Rochelle and Will Hightower, that Iíd be a no-show if it rains. But now, I have to go because Iíve told you I will.

Of course, if you are a superstitious bettor, you oughtnít place your wagers on me. My race number is 1313 or depending on how you say it, ďthirteen-thirteen.Ē

To add to all of those whining excuses, Iíve strained a calf muscle, and this will be my first run since Nov. 16.

This past week, I visited a sports medicine doctor and co-medical director of the race, Dr. Meredith Bean. Sheís a very nice doctor who told me to ice my calf six times a day and stretch at least that many times. She even invited me to look for her at the finish line, unwittingly adding the caveat, ďIf you finish.Ē I heard the accent on the ďif.Ē

Despite the odds against finishing, Iím feeling a bit like the character Forrest Gump in the 1994 movie of the same name. Forrest was a seemingly simple-minded mamaís boy whose leg braces caused him to be the constant target of school bullies.

The movieís theme may have been best expressed in the scene where Forrestís friend, Jenny, pleads with him to escape the bullies by chanting, ďRun, Forrest. Run!Ē

And so he does, but with an unsteady gait. As heís running, the braces miraculously fall off and Forrest outruns his pursuers. At that moment, he realizes for the first time in his life that he is good at something.

I started running one year ago, and a lot of things have miraculously fallen off. Iíve lost nearly 30 pounds. Much of the self-doubt went with it. I now feel like I can accomplish nearly anything if I simply keep a steady pace of improvement.

So, if you are betting on me, log onto www.runcim.org after 10 a.m. Eastern time and type in 1313 to see where I am or see the results.

Then I want you to put your nose to the computer screen and start chanting, ďRun, Norris, Run.Ē Iím hoping it just might help.

Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author. Visit thechaplain.net.