Feature article: Runner with a cause
Says Lee, “I’ve always encouraged [Jazzy and her brothers, Chris, Rick and Levi] that if you’ve got a dream or goal you’ve gotta be the best that you can be with it. Nobody remembers second place. I’ve always been a pretty competitive person, too, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons about not making any wild suggestions, just keep your mouth shut in the future.”
Jokes aside, Lee recognized the value inherent in what his daughter was proposing. Jazzy had been training for the last several years in particular summer camps and off and on with an Olympic running coach with the goal of making the U.S. Olympic team as a distance runner. And that value didn’t have all to do with her ambition. “I’ve been with Jazzy every mile, every day we’ve been out here,” he says. “For a father to spend that kind of time with a 17-year-old daughter — who in most cases wants nothing less than to hang out with her dad — it’s time I couldn’t buy as a father. I just treasure every day.”
Taking the majority of a week off to visit the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, north of father and daughter’s route through Nashville, where they’d set up base camp at the time, the young runner was treated “like a rock star,” says her father, by the long-haulers and others at the show.
“Virtually everybody who came to our booth was like, ‘Where’s Jazzy?’” says the St. Christopher fund’s Donna Kennedy.
Jazzy herself resumed her running a little under the weather the following Sunday, with Doug Jones and the Grothe family, and Monday, when she only ran a few miles. “There were a lot of really nice people,” she says, “a lot of hugs, a lot of kisses on the cheek — I think I got sick from that.”
Overall, it was a positive experience, further confirmation in her mind of the generous, hopeful nature of the nation’s truck drivers.
“The truck show was just crazy,” she says. “Every time I walked out of the camper people were there, or they were asking where I was. And it was fun. I got told a lot of stories.” One hauler wrote checks for $300 and $200, respectively, to go to the St. Christopher fund and to the Jordans to recoup fuel and other on-road expenses, straight from his own new-truck savings, she adds. “I met some people who were the first ones to be helped by the St. Christopher fund. I finally got to meet [fund cofounder] Dr. John McElligott. I was looking forward to that, because he’s helped me along the way with chiropractors and usually gets it donated to us. My back always goes out from the slant of the road, running. Sometimes it’s once a week, others it’s a month at a time.”
In the second month of her run, Jordan was sidelined for nearly a month by a stress fracture.
“Age and experience come into play in being able to log more miles daily on a journey run of this magnitude,” says Paul Staso of the risks inherent in someone as young as Jordan attempting it. “But even 24-year-old Elena Helmerick ran across America by averaging 28 miles per day, finishing in 113 days. Twenty-four-year-old Katie Visco (paveyourlane.com) ran across America last year, averaging only 11 miles per day, the journey requiring 275 days.”
Jordan, when I talked to Staso, was closing in on her scheduled finish date and still west of Knoxville, Tenn., home of the St. Christopher fund. It had been 225 days since she left Los Angeles. Her father, Lee, guessed they might make New York City by late May or early this month. He sounded as determined as his daughter. “She will make New York City,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it.”
More recently, Lee suggested June 15 for an arrival date in Times Square.
Staso underscores the potential repercussions for the young runner, which make her and her family’s sacrifices toward her accomplishment and for the benefit of the nation’s truck drivers all the more compelling. “Sometimes, when young people take on such huge undertakings as running across the United States,” Staso says, “there is a price to pay physically. Katie Visco … incurred an iliotibial band injury in her final weeks of that journey. She had to walk the final three weeks to the finish line at the ocean [in San Diego]. According to her blog, she still cannot run due to the pain of the iliotibial band injury — four months later!
“Hopefully it will not be an ongoing issue for her as she gets older.”
But Staso, joined by so many others, wishes Jazzy success in her journey.
On April 17, Jordan ran 21.3 miles east of Knoxville, Tenn. As she posted on her Facebook fan page, she “had a runner come out in the afternoon and about halfway through my run another car pulled over and a young man got out to run with me. Turns out they drove all the way from Chattanooga TN to meet me :)”
Run, Jazzy, run.