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If you’ve ever been inspired by a dedicated, caring coach, don’t miss Running for Jim.

But let’s not stop there. If you enjoy seeing likable, hard-working high school runners; if you have ever been affected by a loved one’s chronic illness; if you think of the running community as an extended family; if you like a sports movie with a dramatic finish; if you want to support a worthy cause … then you won’t be disappointed if you head to the Orpheum at 6 p.m. on April 16.

You might even take a cue from Mary Cozby, whose Coconino High runners plan to run down to the Orpheum as part of their regular Wednesday night workout.

The film, which has won 13 festival awards since it premiered in Moscow last year, took 2 years to make. It was a response to the national media exposure that descended on Holland Reynolds of San Francisco University High School after she collapsed from severe dehydration near the finish line of the 2010 California State High School Cross Country Championships.

But without question, the movie’s seed of inspiration came months earlier, when Uni High’s legendary coach Jim Tracy was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Holland said in interviews that she knew she had to cross the finish line so her team could win its eighth state title for their ill coach. It garnered attention from major news outlets, and even was used for inspiration by New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin during his team’s Super Bowl season.

“We decided to take the attention off her, and put the focus on something more important,” said Holland’s mom, Robin Hauser Reynolds, in a phone interview. “This was all to raise awareness (about ALS) and for the legacy of a coach.”

Ms. Reynolds, who is a professional photographer, became a producer and director of Running for Jim, enlisting the help of ABC reporter Dan Noyes among others. Producer Staci Hartman is the sister of Flagstaff physical therapist and runner Shelby Reid, and will be at the Orpheum screening.

“We’re looking at a real positive affirmation of life here and what you can do with a progressive chronic disease,” Reid said. “I like the grit and determination of this movie. Flagstaff is a great running community. I love getting this film here so everyone can enjoy it.”

As the film-makers intended, you will know much more about ALS, still an incurable killer, after you leave the theater. But in keeping with Tracy’s personality, the film is upbeat. A particularly powerful scene comes when Tracy is watching Gehrig’s famous 1939 speech at Yankee Stadium in which he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Part of the joy of the film is listening to so many people praise their coach, who Reynolds says has slowed down considerably but attends screenings and practices when he can. He is still a positive presence for Uni runners.

“Jim is brutally honest,” Reynolds said. “It’s a unique thing in this day and age. Kids have to earn his compliments. And when they do, a comment from Jim as simple as ‘Good race’ means the world to them.

“When you see the film, you’ll see what I mean.”

She’s right. Jim is a coach worth getting to know.

Buy tickets online at www.eventbrite.com, or at http://runningforjim.com. Cost is $10, with proceeds being split evenly between national ALS research and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff. Run Flagstaff and Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association are co-sponsors of the event.

Myles Schrag is NOT the gutsy finisher of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, as the March 23 High Country Running column seemed to imply. Jay Donosky, the author of that excellent piece is. We apologize to Jay for that confusion. Myles is the coordinating editor for this space. You can reach him at myless@hkusa.com.

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