Despite ALS, retired Tri-Cities educator still racing with help from friends

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Elizabethton, TN (WJHL)  Thanksgiving morning, thousands of people will gather in downtown Johnson City for the 11th annual Turkey Trot.

One of the racers will be a retired elementary school principal Dr. Josh Wandell who suffers from ALS also known as Lou Gehig’s Disease.

When he competes Thursday morning, he’ll do it with help from a core group of friends.

“He liked running for the sake of running the pure joy of running,” said T.J. Brown, the librarian at East Side Elementary School where Wandell used to be the principal. “So we had to figure out a way to get him back into it.”

Last March, Brown and a group of friends pushed Dr. Wandell in the Tobacco Road Maraoth in Cary, North Carolina.

“He has absolutely no quit in him,” said Justin Wandell, Dr. Wandell’s cousin and one of the runners who pushes Josh. “He’s been a fighter his whole life.”

For Justin, helping his cousin meant motivating himself to do something he’d never done before. “He got me running. He got me off the couch and back in shape a little bit.”

Since March, Team Wandell has raced in the Tri-Cities in events like the Speedway in Lights 5K in Bristol, the Crazy 8’s 8K in Kingsport, and the Blue Plum Fast 5K in Johnson City.

Friends say Wandell is motivated to spread the word about ALS and to share his Christian faith.

“This (ALS) is what happened, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Justin. “But here’s what we’re going do now: we’re going to be happy, we’re going to run, and we’re going to tell people about it. ”

“ALS is nasty,” Brown said. “But if we can take a few moments and bring some happiness and joy – that’s a good thing.”

The Turkey Trot is Thanksgiving morning at 8:30 a.m.. More information about the event HERE.

You can track Team Wandell HERE.

Copyright 2016 WJHL.  All rights reserved.

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