Wednesday, July 15, 2015

St.Jude Memphis Marathon Race Recap

December 6, 2014
As many of you know, I was supposed to run my first half marathon at St.Jude Memphis in December 2013 for the ten year anniversary of my brother's passing. My brother was just thirteen years old when he lost his battle with two types of cancer both diagnosed in the last year of his life. Unfortunately, the 2013 race was cancelled due to winter storm Cleon. It was then that I decided I would return in 2014 to run my first full. After months of training and fundraising, race day had finally arrived.
I woke up at 5:30 to get dressed and begin my fueling. The race was scheduled to start at 8:00, and mom and I wanted to get to the start by 7:15. We stayed at the Memphis Peabody Hotel where St.Jude was hosting the Heroes Race Day Lounge for people who fundraised over $1,000. The lounge had several tables with food catered from Panera Bread, Moes, McAlister's Deli, and Smoothie King to name a few. We stopped by the lounge on our way to the start line so Mom could get a fresh cup of coffee and I could grab a banana.

Then, we headed to the start line which was just a short block from the hotel. I used the porta potty at least a dozen times. I really didn't want to have to go during the race. We lined up in our corral just in time to hear one of the patients of St.Jude sing the Star Spangled Banner. Already, my eyes were watering. The corrals released every 2 minutes. By 8:20, we were off.

Miles 1-4: My Mom was running the half, and she planned to stay with me to help me keep a conservative pace. The first two miles were congested. Even with the staggered start there were several people stopping to walk, and it was tiring weaving in and out of the crowd. During the first mile or two, there was a group of young adults with Down Syndrome cheering for us. Mom and I got high fives from each one of them as we passed. Around Mile 3, we ran through the largest crowd of spectators on Beale St. I caught a glimpse of my Dad cheering. He pointed to my husband, Michael, across the street but I never saw him. The crowd was too thick!
Some time after that I ran into Cecilia from Mommies Run. I wasn't sure that it was her at first, but when I saw her bib I was certain it was her. I hollered, "Cecilia, I read your blog." She was running her first full too with her friend Debi from Girls Run the 901. Debi liked my St.Jude Sweaty Band and asked to take my picture at the start line. I made the connection when I saw her with Cecilia and I remembered that I had read her blog too. Both of these ladies were very nice and encouraging to my Mom and me.
 Marathonfoto captured a picture of my mom and I after meeting Cecilia.
She's behind us with the hat.
Later I met a nice couple, Tammy and Bryan, who noticed my sign on my back in memory of my brother. Bryan was a St.Jude survivor, and he was pacing his wife for her first full. They also had kind, encouraging words. That's one thing I love about this race. Everyone has a story, their lives affected in some way by childhood cancer. The people on course were some of the nicest people I've ever met.
 Miles 5-10 We ran through the campus of St.Jude. The patients and their families lined the streets with signs, pom poms, and cowbells. They cheered even louder for the runners with the St.Jude Heroes singlets. "Go Heroes!" Around Mile 8, we went through Overton Park and the zoo. My Mom had not taken any fuel in before this point, and she got irritated with me for not slowing down. "I don't even have time to eat my raisins." I trained to fuel every 5 miles, and I told her to let me know if she needed to slow down. We walked so she could take in her raisins. I saw the camera man above us, and I told her "Chin up, don't look so defeated. They're taking our picture." We looked defeated, and we laugh about it today.
Miles 10-15 Around Mile 11, I saw the 4:55 pacer pass us and he disappeared quickly. I felt discouraged because I really wanted to run a sub 5:00, and I knew I wasn't on pace. My mom told me to quit holding back for her and just go for it, but I didn't want to leave her. We had come this far together. The half marathoners split at the 12.5 mile mark. I looked at my Garmin and figured we were on pace for a 2:30 half. I was so excited for my mom to get a new half PR. I told her not to walk when she rounded the corner at Sun Studios. "Finish strong," we said to each other. Then, we waved goodbye.

Miles 16-20 Some time during Mile 15, I saw the 4:55 pacer ahead of me. My sub 5:00 goal could still be a reality. I picked up the pace to catch up to him. There were several runners in this pace group. They welcomed me and struck up conversation. We talked about my brother and last year's race cancellation. We talked about football. We talked about the sights in Memphis. We talked about everything. I don't usually like talking while running, but this group really got my mind off things. My plan was to just stick with this pace group until the finish, but we started to get separated at the water stops. By Mile 20, they were behind me. I felt good, so I kept going.
Miles 21-26 I realized after leaving the pace group that it was really quiet. My iPod was turned off the entire time. I tried to take in my last Honey Stinger waffle for fuel, but I couldn't stomach it. I was afraid I would crash if I didn't take in something. Luckily, I brought some pretzels with me. My legs were starting to feel heavy. The hills hurt worse going down that climbing up. I refused to fall victim to "The Wall" I read about in all my training books. I thought about my brother and the kids of St.Jude. They fought battles much tougher than this, and they remained strong even on their weakest days. "One foot in front of the other," I told myself. At Mile 24, I ran back through the campus of St.Jude. The second time through the campus was the inspiration I needed to finish strong.

The final two miles passed quickly. Before I knew it, Mile Marker 26 was in sight. I saw my Mom, (who had already had lunch, showered, and changed), my Dad, and my husband cheering for me. I took a quick right, then a left through the tunnel, into AutoZone Park. Tears of joy streamed down my face at the finish line. I looked up and pointed toward the Heavens, "This one's for you," I shouted inside. On my iPod, Pharell Williams' "Happy" was playing. I always thought Raymond would love that song.
Not only did I finish, but I met my goal time of under 5 hours, finishing in 4:53:46. I'm officially a marathoner. I said I was going to be one and done, but I'm already registered for this year's race. I can't wait to do it again. This time my mom is joining me for her first full.

I love running as a St.Jude hero and raising funds for a great cause. St.Jude Memphis Marathon is one of the biggest fundraising events for St.Jude Children's Research Hospital, raising up $8 million dollars. Do you like running for a special cause? What are some fundraising tips you could offer someone like me?


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