How the St. Jude Half came to be

So when my husband gave me a cuddly stuffed “St. Jude” bear with my Christmas present last year from Kay Jewelers he had no idea of what he was starting. This race in Memphis has been on my bucket list for awhile (largely in part due to my running buddy Francine). Since we started this journey in 2011 she has asked every year “When are we going to do St. Jude?”  well I had decided 2015 would be the year. Bear in hand I asked my Hubby “Can St. Jude be my destination race in 2015?”  ( I try to pick one a year if budget allows) His response “As long as you find a child to give the bear too“. In fact he went and got me a SECOND one. Both would make the trip to Memphis but we will come back to that. Not only did I decide that St. Jude would be destination race but that I would also sign up as an Elite VIP St. Jude Hero which would mean I would have to raise $2500. This would guarantee Francine and I the chance to tour the St Jude Hospital. I am not the type of person that likes to ask for money (even for charity) but the cause behind St. Jude made it easy. I fortunately was able to raise the full $2500 by October 29th, over two months ahead of the deadline.

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All “22” donors I personally thanked and added their names to my St. Jude singlet that I would wear proudly on race day.

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Even an unexpected spinal surgery and lack of training would not keep me down from this experience. This would be my 20th Half Marathon but this race had much more personal meaning to me. St. Jude is a charity special to both my Dad and Francine’s. We wanted to see first hand how St. Jude and the money from donations gives back to the kids and families touched by childhood cancer and how they can make loving, lasting memories when it seems all hope is lost. This year I truly felt the need to do something much more this year with my running, I wanted to #RunForAReason and St. Jude gave me the chance to do just that. So on December 3rd Francine, myself and a couple of buddies (below) were road trip bound to Memphis. I found out in advance I would not be able to bring them to the hospital since you are not allowed to interact with the patients so I decided I would bring them with me on race morning and give them to children before the start of the race as a “Thank you for supporting St. Jude“. From the smiles on their faces that worked out very well 🙂

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Our tour of St. Jude Hospital was very enlightening, especially to see how every child no matter the race or religion are treated with open arms exactly the way the founder Danny Thomas wanted it to be.  If you are ever in Memphis I highly recommend you to stop by for a guided tour. What made the tour extra special were the two moms whose own children were previous patients of St. Jude and shared there own personal experiences. What I found particularly endearing was there was not one ounce of bitterness but gratefulness for the care they received from the doctors and nurses during their time at St. Jude.

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The expo at the Memphis Cook Convention Center was a breeze to get your bib and race packet. I even found my name on the official St. Jude pace car as an added bonus.

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Next would be the St. Jude Heroes Pasta Party at the Convention Center which would BLOW OUR MINDS. I was not expecting such the celebration. From the moment you walk in the door, people are thanking you for being a supporter of St. Jude. You can smell the delicious food, music is blaring from the speakers, there is a huge video wall, you knew you were in for a treat! After we picked our table and got our food I was literally dancing in my seat. I was so excited with everything going on I could barely eat.

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They also had a social media screen which I was too excited to get on several times, one included with Joe from run8va whom I finally got to meet at the party.

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Once we finished eating St. Jude kicked off the presentation with a touching video that would inspire anyone to lace up their shoes. ALSAC President and CEO, Rick Shadyac said it’s his favorite weekend of the year and welcomed a record year of participants (Estimated 21,500,  13 years running, established in 2002) to raise money and awareness for the work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s here that patients and their families receive treatment at no cost. This race event alone in Memphis raised over $8 million dollars. Check out this special news clip here.

The next morning was the race, cool temperatures to start that would warm up quickly and hills awaited but more than that was the most smiles and high fives you have ever seen at a race event. The 5k started at 7:30am and the Half and Full all started together at 8am. Even though it was a large number of runners the course opened up quickly and gave sight to a beautiful morning in Memphis.

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This just melted my heart

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The race signs say it all

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Does it get more real than that?

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So many young kids, teenagers and adults high 5’ing and cheering along the way made the rolling hills not be as hard.

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Wearing my Heroes singlet proudly as promised

When my lack of training kicked in I remembered something one of the moms said at the Pasta Party the previous night. “Running is hard, but so is Cancer.” and I kept going. Francine and I crossed the Finish line hand in hand in 2:24. A moment I will always treasure.

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Check out more race event photos from participants HERE.

Next was the VIP Hospitality tent which had loads of goodies! It overlooked the Finish area and had TV screens to watch runners cross over the finish line which was a nice touch as we stretched and gorged ourselves with treats . We also took a fun photo after we freshened up.

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As we walked to the exit an overwhelming feeling of sadness struck me, I didn’t want to leave. I looked around and saw families hugging each other, runners taking pictures, signs of congratulations “We are proud of you“. To have taken part in such a race that brought out such emotion from beginning to end I would always be so grateful.

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#NeverForgotten #ForYouDad #RunForAReason #TeamDevin