The story of 16-year-old cross country runner Holland Reynolds hit the national news this week. In case you didn’t see it, you can read about Holland here or click on the video below to watch what she did that has people all over the country talking.
I’ve heard Holland referred to as “amazing” and “inspiring”, and she certainly is those things. However, you have to know the backstory to understand why Holland dug in so deep in order to finish the race (albeit on her hands and knees). Her coach, Jim Tracy, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) earlier this year. An accomplished runner and coach, he is no longer able to run with his team, and often must sit in a chair during practice. ALS is progressive and fatal; affected individuals will eventually lose almost all voluntary motor function. The division championship where this race took place had been won by Tracy’s team seven times previously, placing them in a tie with one other school for the most titles for any school, division or gender. The team wanted to win an eighth title for their beloved coach. If Holland wasn’t able to finish, there would be no eighth title.
I’ve talked before in this blog about the fallacy that a person’s worth can be judged based on their ability to be productive. Without a doubt, Jim Tracy will eventually be profoundly disabled and is probably already much less productive today than he was 5, 10, or 20 years ago. It could be argued, of course, that even in his reduced physical state, he is continuing to shape the abilities of the young people on his cross country team, and therefore he is still being “productive.” Having strong high school runners isn’t going to net you coverage on all of the major news outlets and hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube, however. On this day, Holland Reynolds actually failed miserably at the thing she was coached to do (that is, to run fast). She continued to move, however, because she was INSPIRED. She finished the race for Jim Tracy the Person, not Jim Tracy the Coach.
I have a marathon coming up in five weeks (my first since Nathan was born), and although my training has gone pretty well overall, there have been some days that didn’t go well. Yesterday was one of those days. I was running 18 miles, and somewhere around mile 13 I started to struggle. As I always do, I played mental games with myself until about mile 16, at which point I knew I could finish. With just over a mile to go, the Christina Aguilera remix version of the Disney song “Reflection” came on (in case you aren’t familiar with the song, I used it as the background music for my video of Sarah Kate here). I cranked it up and set the song to repeat until I was finished with my run. As I ran, I could see the video played over and over in mind, and I picked up my pace. When I checked my Garmin at the end of the run, I saw that I had run that last mile+ at a pace over a minute and a half faster per mile than I had run the first seventeen.
Sarah Kate wasn’t there with me yesterday. She doesn’t know the first thing about racing or training or fueling or pace. She doesn’t even have the ability to run across the backyard. What she does have the ability to do, though, is INSPIRE.
I believe we all need a little inspiration in our lives. I know where mine comes from. What about you?