On a Wing and a Prayer
55 year old Joe Garcia of Ferndale, Washington has a competitive spirit, but he had more on his mind than simply running a race when he qualified for the 2013 National Senior Games Presented by Humana. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we encountered Joe dressed in native garb including sandals, tunic and seashell necklace and anklet after the 5K road race held at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. One might have assumed he was making a joke out of the competition, but Joe was dead serious about his mission.
“I am dressed like my ancestors of the Taino tribe of the Caribbean. We were the first indigenous people to meet Columbus, and I am descended from a great Taino leader,” he explained. “I knew that there were many very great athletes in my age group, so I decided my purpose was not to win a medal as much as to run for my people. This was a prayer run dedicated to honor all of my people- past, present and future.”
Joe’s road to his first National Senior Games has not been an easy one. He was an active elite runner until he suffered a fractured C7 vertebrae in an automobile accident more than two decades ago. “The doctors said no more running, you will do more harm than good to yourself. That was tough,” he recalls. “After some time I prayed and asked ‘If You will allow me to run again, I will be a Prayer Warrior.’ I started to jog and slowly brought myself back to running. Then, 10 years ago God told me I needed to be a better man, so I quit drinking and got myself into better physical and spiritual shape,” he said.
When he found out about senior games, Joe knew that was the right path to pursue to help maintain his health. “But I came to this event to do something special, something bigger than myself. I can feel the presence of my people with me here.”
Joe’s Taino name is Kaona-Bo or “Mighty Man of Gold.” He may not have won a gold medal, but it’s clear that he already possessed a heart of “Kaona.”