Gabe and Sarah Cornish are no first-timers to the Mankato Marathon. But this year the couple isn't preparing to run it by themselves.

"I'm going to run with this picture. I told him I want him with me on the run," Sarah says. 

Their nephew, 3-year-old James Thomas will be by their side the entire way.
"He has a disease called spinal muscular atrophy. It's not a real well-known disease but it's actually the leading genetic killer of kids under the age of two in the United States," Gabe says. 

It took doctors eight months to diagnose JT with SMA- a rare genetic disease that affects the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord.

"They can't maybe sit up on their own. Maybe they're not rolling over when you thought they would. So when he started missing some of his developmental milestones, that's when they went in and had him checked out," Gabe says.

A thousand miles might separate the couple and their nephew, who lives in Alabama, but JT will be there in spirit cheering them to the finish line.

"In the past when we've trained it's been a little tougher to get out of bed and stuff, but this time it's been really a motivational experience to have JT and know what we're running for," Gabe says.

A couple that proves distance is no object when it comes to raising awareness for a young fighter and the thousands of other infants battling the disease.

The couple says their ultimate goal is to get SMA added to the Minnesota screening panel for newborns.

To learn more about ways you can help visit the Cure SMA website.