Cross country runners compete on courses consisting of different types of terrain including steep inclines and dramatic descents. In this year’s California state high school championships, a young competitor named Holland Reynolds was in third place after two miles of a three-mile race when she hit what runners call “the wall.”
The wall is best described as the point in physical competition when large skeletal muscles become depleted of essential nutrients. This is manifested by extreme exhaustion and muscle cramping.
Although Holland is a well-trained athlete, she had been recovering from a flu-like illness the day of the race but felt well enough to compete in the crucial event. Unfortunately, with only several yards remaining in the race, exhaustion led to paralysis and left her crawling to the finish line.
Her effort resulted in victory for her team, but her motivation for continuing was much deeper than winning a trophy. Her coach, Jim Tracy, has been fighting his own battle with exhaustion since being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
ALS is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects motor nerves that are responsible for triggering muscle movement. It results in progressive paralysis and eventual death. Coach Tracy’s persistence in continuing to work with his team despite adversity is what served as inspiration for Reynolds.
Many sports stories emphasize winning at all costs. Athletics is truly an adventure that lets everyone involved find out more about themselves. This series of events exemplifies what is best about sports and competition.