By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – After completing the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis a year ago, 9-year-old Jorden Daniel feels confident he’ll finish ahead of his Uncle Allie once again Saturday.
Jorden and Allie Martin have raced together in many competitive runs, ranging in distance from 3.1-mile runs to 26.2-mile marathons, and will travel to Memphis this weekend for their second half-marathon.
In each race together, the fourth-grader at Pierce Street Elementary School always finishes ahead. But Martin doesn’t mind his nephew crossing the finish line first. Jorden, a cancer survivor who visits St. Jude Children’s Hospital twice a year for checkups, rides in a stroller pushed by his uncle.
“He always beats me,” Martin said during a recent training session at Ballard Park.
“I beat you by a second,” Jorden said.
Doctors diagnosed Jorden at 4 months old with thechildhood cancer neuroblastoma, finding a malignant mass wrapped around his spinal cord. Eight months later, he was cancer-free thanks to world-class medical care at St. Jude that included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
“Basically, they saved my life,” Jorden said.
While precocious Jorden tests three grade levels ahead in school, spinal cord damage limits his walking and he often requires the use of a wheelchair. Seeing his uncle complete 5K and 10K races, Jorden wanted to join him.
Martin literally pushes Jorden, but the WCBI reporter said his nephew pushes him to train and continue running when his body feels tired. Martin, 48, had never completed a half-marathon or marathon until after he and Jorden decided to complete the long-distance races together. Along with racing together, they’ve raised thousands of dollars for St. Jude.
“We make a good team,” Martin said.
During runs, they chat about a wide range of topics. Occasionally, Martin will pass Jorden a snack to help make the ride more comfortable.
Martin’s wife, Robin, watched Jorden and him recently as they prepared for the Memphis race. She said their nephew inspires their whole family.
“He’s doing something that he sees other people do,” she said. “He’s just an inspiration in our lives.”
Martin smiled with relief after hearing Jorden’s goal for this weekend’s race, to finish three minutes faster than their previous half-marathon run of two hours and 22 minutes. Jorden plans to have a camera during the race to preserve memories of their adventure.
“It’s just exciting,” he said.