Half marathon that is.
On December 2, 2017 I became a St. Jude Hero by completing a half marathon and fundraising money for my favorite charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It started off as one of my many ambitious adventures, almost a selfish one. When I learned that my joy for running could also be a way to support the hospital and its patients, I signed up right away.
Now my memories of St. Jude go as far back as I can remember; my dad would always respond to the mailers and send in what little money he could. Years later I got several opportunities to volunteer at fundraising events since I did not have much money to donate either. My family and I truly believe in St. Jude’s mission and what always resonates is the fact that “families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.” I knew all our small donations and contributions were being put to the best possible use, but visiting the actual hospital in Memphis, TN the day before the race has elevated my belief and commitment to another level.
Danny Thomas, the founder of this hospital, along with other great leaders, literally thought of everything when building and developing the St. Jude facilities. The view of treating “little humans” has lead them to create an incredible place that only slightly resembles a hospital. As the tour group walked through the halls of St. Jude, I was in awe of the colorful, fun-filled walls and eventually realized that the various sections were mirroring the four seasons; fall, winter, spring and summer. Several art installations made by the patients themselves could also be found among the bright hallways — according to the tour guide, the Child Life Specialists highly encourage patients to utilize art as an expressive outlet.
All of the furnishings are geared towards the children — small chairs, lower desks, and even a teens only area. And, why travel around in a wheelchair, when you can have your own personalized little red wagon? I learned once a child becomes a patient, he or she will be a St. Jude patient for life. My main takeaway from the tour was that St. Jude is here to care for the whole person, not only is it finding cures for the body, but also caring for the mind and nurturing the spirit. It was absolutely beautiful to witness how doctors, staff, patients and their families came together in these buildings with so much hope for the future.
Now for the run itself, it was 13.1 miles of motivation. Running through electric Beal Street, enjoying the riverfront views, and detouring through the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus was only the beginning. Around mile 9 I got another boost of energy from seeing the reason why I was running — seeing the patients at the St. Jude Target House come out on the sidewalk to cheer us on. The local neighbors and FedEx really livened up the last few miles by lining the streets with music, treats and lots of cheerleaders to keep us going. I would like to take a moment to thank all the spectators who took the time to make awesome and funny signs! My favorite was at mile 10 when I honestly debated getting an Uber, but I figured with the traffic and all the road closures, I could probably get to the finish line faster on my own two tired feet. So I kept going.
The fun did not end at the finish line. Being a St. Jude Hero definitely has its perks on top of all the love and positive vibes. Depending on your fundraising commitment, you get your share of St. Jude swag, free race entry, a training plan with coaching videos (amazing resource for first time racers), access to the Heroes Hospitality lounge, and your name on the official Landers Ford pace car! Not sure why, but seeing my name along with all of the other heroes on this car was pretty amazing. Can you and find my name? I believe the best perk by far is the access to the Heroes Hospitality lounge. They had a plethora of pre- and post-race food and beverages, real bathrooms (anyone who has ever ran a race and had to use port-a-potties knows how amazing this is!), and even massage stations. I was so grateful to have this amazing space to go to and unwind after crossing the finish line.
My weekend in Memphis was a life-changing one, one that has brought a new meaning to my love of running and a newfound appreciation for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. A big thank you to all of the people who supported me and contributed to my fundraising efforts, you are heroes as well! If you would like to join the cause you can donate on my page or sign up for your own Heroes race here!
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and ALSAC are registered trademarks.