Friday, July 17, 2015

St.Jude Memphis Half Marathon Cancellation

December 7, 2013

My mom and I had talked about running a half marathon for a long time. We finally got up the courage and signed up as St.Jude Heroes in June. We chose to run the St.Jude Memphis half marathon in memory of my brother who lost his battle to two types of cancer both diagnosed in the last year of his life. This year was the ten year anniversary of his death. He was just thirteen when he passed, and the race was held exactly one month from his birthday on January 7th. That's the significance of the 13.1.

I had been watching the weather all week, and it didn't look good for our first half marathon. I hoped and prayed it wouldn't be cancelled. I went to school on Thursday, and all my coworkers were asking me if I was looking forward to the race that weekend. Talking about it made me sick to my stomach. I was really afraid there wasn't going to be a race that weekend.

Tennessee had declared a state of emergency in preparation for two major winter storms heading their way, Winter Storm Cleon and Deon. Later that afternoon, I got a text message from St.Jude. It made me feel somewhat better about the situation. Maybe it wouldn't get as bad as they anticipated. Maybe the race could take place later in the day. Maybe, just maybe we'll get to run after all. I called Mom after receiving the text. She said she and my Dad still planned to pick me up first thing Friday morning to head to Memphis.

I saw news reports online where people were already arriving in Memphis to pick up their packets and go to the Expo. They reported a little rain, but above freezing temperatures and no ice. Any decision centered around the St.Jude Memphis Marathon was a difficult one. Should you go and risk your safety only for the race to be cancelled? What if you choose to stay home and the race actually takes place as scheduled? We decided to brave the ice storm and travel to Memphis. It may have seemed like a crazy decision to some, but Mom and I looked forward to this weekend for six months. We chose THIS half in memory of my brother. THIS half meant so much to us. We trained, we fundraised, and we dreamed of this weekend.

I said a prayer for everyone who decided to travel to Memphis, including us. I said a prayer for all those affected by the storm. I prayed for the race officials to make the best decision possible on behalf of the participants and volunteers. I prayed for the kids of St. Jude because they are the reason for the run and regardless of the outcome they would still benefit from all the generous donations.

We stopped at a McDonald's in Birmingham for breakfast. While we were there we met another family heading to the St.Jude Memphis Marathon. They were traveling from South Carolina. "We're not the only crazy ones," I thought.

The temperature dropped 20 degrees from Birmingham to Tupelo, the birth place of Elvis. It dropped another 10 degrees from Tupelo to Memphis. It was rainy and cold when we arrived in Memphis. Ice was accumulating on the trees and power lines. The roads were mostly mush, but I feared that would be frozen in the morning.

We picked up our packets and checked out the Expo. There were several people there, but not the huge crowd you would normally expect for an event this large.

 Mom and I in line for our packet
We signed the ABC's of Cancer wall for the kids of St.Jude
Leaving the Expo

We ate at Rendevous BBQ for lunch. While we were eating, I saw on the news where the Dallas Marathon was cancelled for Sunday. The mess in Dallas was what was headed our way. If they cancelled Dallas, I thought it was only a matter of time before St.Jude was cancelled.

We decided to skip the St. Jude Heroes pasta party on Friday evening. We were settled in the hotel and didn't want to get back out in the weather. I'm glad we made the decision to stay because at the pasta party Richard Shadyac, the ALSAC President, announced that the race was cancelled.

Mom and I had gone down to pick up our to go order from the hotel restaurant. I overheard people saying it had been cancelled. A young woman was sitting at a table by herself. I saw her look at her phone, then tears fill her eyes. "Is it true?" I asked her. "It was supposed to be my first full," she said trying to hold back tears. When we got back to our room I checked my phone. It was true. I couldn't help but cry when I read the text. I was so disappointed.

St. Jude announced that they would still have the St.Jude Heroes lounge at the Peabody. Even though we didn't race, we celebrated our fundraising success at the Heroes lounge. There was tons of food catered from Panera, Moe's, and McAlister's. They gave everyone a finisher's shirt that they originally intended to sell after the race. We enjoyed talking to people who traveled a long way to be there. We talked to several past participants, who bragged about how wonderful the whole race experience was to them. We would be back in 2014. We wanted to experience this race for ourselves.

As we were leaving the Heroes Lounge, we noticed several people with medals around their necks. They were the race medals! They were passing out the medals outside the gate of AutoZone park where the finish line was located. We got our medals and then took a walk on Beale Street. Beale Street was promised to have the largest crowd of spectators for the race, but it looked like a ghost town on that Saturday.

I fully support St.Jude in their decision to cancel the race. I know they did what was best for the volunteers and participants. I don't regret our decision to go to Memphis because we did all we could to participate and we still had a great time. I am thankful that I was a Hero for St.Jude. I exceeded my fundraising goal of $1,000. A special thank you to all who donated.

St. Jude did a wonderful job communicating with us after the race cancellation. If you were unable to travel that weekend, they offered to mail your packet and medal or you could donate them to the kids of St.Jude. They also offered a full refund of your race fee, a transfer to Rock n' Roll Arizona, Rock n' Roll New Orleans, or the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, or you could donate your race fee to St.Jude. Mom and I donated our race fee to St.Jude. However, the day we arrived back home we registered for the Rock n' Roll half marathon in New Orleans because St.Jude was one of their charities. We couldn't wait for February 2nd to arrive!

Have you ever experienced a race cancellation?

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