Sunday, September 30, 2012

XC Coach Jim Tracy Lifts the Fog

The Greeks never admired the virtue of humility; Jesus certainly did.  He performed miracles, healed the sick, cast out demons while instructing His disciples to "tell no one."  Humility comes from the word “of the earth.”  People who are “down to earth” are often humble people (ah ha connection/moment).  Humility counters pride.  Humanity is limited; we are fragile and we fail.  Humility can often come at a cost. It is one I am willing to bear.

On the final day of the month of September, it seems that summer has finally arrived in San Francisco.  Every year, we bear the burden of the coldest winter Mark Twain ever spent—July and August for the glory of September and October.  This year however, my status report for the first of those two months is: sunny and clear for all of four days.  A friend quipped, "I didn’t know we lived in Russia." 
My misery reached new heights at the Ram Invitational in Daly City on Saturday September 29.  The weather was supposed to improve; my hopes were high.  Instead, I stood in a fog bank for seven hours.  At one point it was so thick, I couldn’t see my runners during their race.  All day, I hoped the fog would break before it broke me.  It would have, had I not seen the head coach of the University High School cross country team.

As I was walking to get results, I saw a man in a fully motorized wheelchair, dressed in coaching regalia sitting under a red tent that read “University High School.” I realized it was Jim Tracy. Two years ago, in my blog posting University High School XC: Proving that Sports are a Real School of True Human Virtue I wrote, “Despite his diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Tracy mustered the strength to lead and oversee practice, as he has always done since 1994."
Many people know the fate of those who have ALS. According to the ALS Association website, “it is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed."

I wasn’t expecting to see Coach Tracy still involved with cross country.  I was trying to imagine how different coaching would be when your mobility is so limited. I thought of the effort he and his colleagues make to get on a course that covers hills, trails and crowds of hundreds of people.  I was humbled by his dedication and his love for the sport.

Jim Tracy’s presence and commitment to his runners is inspiring.  I hope and pray his battle against ALS is pain free and filled with God’s grace.  I want him to know he lifted the metaphorical fog for me.  He kick started my Indian Summer, taught me a gentle lesson in humility and made me appreciate this great sport that much more.

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