Jayden Nogueras won’t win the Friday night 5-kilometer race at Broadway at the Beach that is part of the 16th annual Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon weekend.
In all likelihood, he’ll finish last.
But his performance will undoubtedly be the most impressive among the more than 1,000 runners.
Jayden is 6 ... and he’s legally blind ... and he was born with cerebral palsy, a chromosome disorder of 1p36 duplication, polymicrogyria, and septo-optic dysplasia.
His list of ailments is long. But his list of accomplishments in road races is surpassing it.
This will be Jayden’s fourth 5k. He has finished within around 50 minutes in races in Hartford, Conn., Norfolk, Va., and his hometown of Bourne, Mass., on Cape Cod.
“When he was younger, his doctor said he might not be able to run or jump,” said Jayden’s father, Jose, a member of the Coast Guard. “The longer distances put a big smile on his face. He knows he’s different and is not as fast and can’t keep up. But being out there with the thousands of runners puts it to the side. He feels like he’s just like everybody else.”
Jose has been Jayden’s running guide in all of his races. He sets the pace so Jayden doesn’t burn himself out, and scopes out inconsistent surfaces or hazards in the road.
But Jayden’s 46-year-old paternal grandmother, Leida Merced of Fayetteville, N.C., has been inspired by him and will run her first ever road race as his guide on Friday.
She has never run the 5k distance and might be as happy to cross the finish line as Jayden always is.
“I just hope I don’t let him down,” Leida said. “I don’t care if I cross the finish line and collapse, as long as I finish with Jayden.”
Jayden doesn’t have to see all the spectators around a finish line to know he’s accomplished something special, and unfailingly crosses the line and basks in any applause with arms raised and a huge smile.
“Finishing is winning,” Jayden said. “I feel excited and proud. It’s so cool what I can do with my daddy.”
Jayden’s mother, Marry, said his vision is 20/200, meaning he has to be within 20 feet to see something that a person with standard vision can see from 200 feet. He can detect the road but can’t see any obstacles until he’s right on top of them.
Jayden is representing the Cape Cod Chapter of myTeam Triumph, a ride-along program created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons and road races. The disabled riders are pushed in road races in specially-designed racing chairs by able-bodied runners.
The organization is patterned after Team Hoyt, which has several chapters including one in Virginia Beach, Va., through which Jayden began his racing career as a rider in 2010. Dick Hoyt, the organization’s namesake, has pushed his son, Rick, a non-verbal spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, in more than 1,000 races, including 247 triathlons and 70 marathons.
When the Nogueras family moved to Massachusetts from Portsmouth, Va., in June 2012, they founded the myTeam Triumph chapter.
Jayden participated in a few races as a rider. Then in May 2011, while visiting the Hoyts at their home in Holland, Mass., he was inspired to discard the chair and participate in a 50-yard run on his own.
From that moment, Jayden became infatuated with running and began training practically daily to increase his speed and stamina. “Running makes you healthy and strong,” Jayden said.
In July 2011, he completed the One-Mile Allen Stone Kid’s Run in Virginia Beach, and eventually graduated to 5ks.
“Since he started running his confidence has gone up, and his self esteem and his understanding of goal-setting have improved,” Marry said. “He applies what he’s learned running to schoolwork, to tying his shoes, to basic life functions.
“It teaches him he’s capable of achieving anything if he tries his best. He was apprehensive about trying to write because of his cerebral palsy and his vision, and now, not too much.”
Jayden’s running gait has improved with his countless hours of training. “It’s awkward, but it was similar to a gallop and is now much smoother,” Marry said.
Jayden is all of 42 inches tall and 38 pounds. He actually served as a pusher for his 5-year-old best friend and racing partner, Elson Martinez, in a one-mile race in November in Norfolk. Martinez is about 10 pounds heavier than Jayden.
“It was always Jayden’s goal that when he grew up he was going to push,” Marry said. “He’s become more noticeable about people’s feelings, especially those who aren’t able to run.”
Jayden will be pushed in the Dasani Half Marathon on Saturday by family friend Jenny Dugan of Norfolk.
The Nogueras’ chose the Myrtle Beach Marathon so five members of Jose’s family in Fayetteville could see Jayden run for the first time, and they’ll stop in Fayetteville on their way back to snow-covered Bourne.
Jayden also will be at the HTC Runner’s Expo at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Friday before his run, pitching Rick Hoyt’s book about his life titled “One Letter at a Time,” and a children’s book based on Hoyt’s life. The Hoyts are giving a portion of the book sales to the Nogueras’ myTeam Triumph chapter. The organization has a website, www.mtt-capecod.org, and Jayden has a Facebook page, facebook.com/jaydennogueras.