When the Olympic Committee included his name on the list of runners chosen to carry the torch as it passes through the Southeast in June, Greensboro resident Jim Reed’s story wasn’t exactly headline news.
No, compared to more-celebrated torch bearers announced this month —Magic Johnson, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston — Reed is, after all, a seemingly ordinary man.
He’s 30 and single, a mortgage banker by day, a bass player in a rock band by night. He was captain of the lacrosse team at Greensboro College, deciding to stick around after graduation in 1997. He’s a guy’s guy — outgoing, successful, the kind of friend you’d ask to be best man at your wedding.
But an Olympic torch bearer? What was there in the Annapolis, Md., native’s resume to qualify him as one of 11,000 runners to carry the torch on a historic round-the-globe trek starting in Athens, Greece, and passing through Atlanta on June 18?
“I was extremely humbled,” said Reed, whose cousin, Hilary Moreland, nominated him. “I don’t think I fit the criteria.”
And there you have it: In an age when words lose their meaning — “community,” “connectedness,” “giving back” — not everyone is an open book, not everyone blows his own horn.
Certainly, Reed’s long-distance marathon time doesn’t set him apart — in a snapshot of him finishing the Walt Disney World marathon last winter, the clock reads a modest 4 hours and 10 minutes. More noteworthy, however, is what is written on his jersey — a list of people who have either beaten cancer or succumbed to it. The first is Reed’s father, Jay, whose cancer was diagnosed before Reed was born and who died when Reed was 9.
By that time, Reed’s mother had learned she had breast cancer and was given an uncertain prognosis. Around the block from their home near Annapolis, the mother of Reed’s childhood friend was dying of cancer.
Now, who can say precisely how catastrophes shape a person’s life? Particularly at 9, when death is normally an abstract word — not personal and utterly final.
His mother, who survived, worried he needed a male presence in his life and enrolled him in a Big Brother program at the nearby Naval Academy. Reed was matched with a midshipman, Kyle Whitaker, a basketball player who took an interest in the boy, bringing him to games, inviting the whole team to Reed’s house one year.
“I realized he was giving up some of his time to hang around with this little kid,” Reed recalls of his Big Brother. “At that age, in college, it’s so easy to just fall into a groove of sports, girls, beer. That’s when I started to notice people who did more than that. They were inspiring.”
Which brings us to today — May 16 — a busy day for Reed. He planned to get up at 5:30 a.m. for a 20-mile practice run with Team in Training, which raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. At 5:30 p.m., he’ll go to The Blind Tiger on Walker Avenue, where his band, The Moe Greens, is playing a benefit for the society to honor a local boy, Michael Joseph Thompson, 7.
And no, the band isn’t getting rich and famous, and Reed won’t be setting any marathon records when he passes through the streets of Atlanta, lined with crowds. He knows they won’t be there for the runner, but the passing of the torch.
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