This year, due to below freezing temperatures and the threat of ice, the St. Jude Marathon was cancelled. Having grown up in New England, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I ran it anyway.
I was not alone. Hundreds of runners laced up, put on their race bibs and ran through the streets of Memphis last Saturday. I met up with members of the Memphis Runners Track Club who had volunteered to be the official race pace team, and we ran the course together.
“We already trained for it and I wasn’t going to let the cold weather stop it,” said runner Nicholas Barnhart, “We did this race to support St. Jude and the fact that the race was canceled did not change our support of St. Jude so it shouldn’t stop us running it.”
People honked their car horns, or cheered as we ran by. An older couple passed out water in the park. And St. Jude opened their gates to let runners pass by the hospital.
“I got almost choked up just coming up the hill. They (St. Jude) let us in the front gate and it was just like, ‘This is what I waited for, this is what I wanted,’” said runner Becky Kellhofer, “It just brings it home that it’s not about us, it’s not about the runners; it’s about the kids.”
Cancelling the St. Jude Marathon was the right thing to do. The State of Tennessee was in a State of Emergency. Close to 8,000 people were without power. Broken limbs were littering the ground, and ice covered trees hung overhead. And although most of the roads were clear, the sidewalks and bridges were slick with ice AutoZone Park, home to the Memphis Redbirds and the race’s finish line, was a skating rink. If the race had not been cancelled, runners and spectators would have been tying up the streets and taking emergency crews from the people who needed them most. People could have been hurt.
“I personally went and traveled the route,” said St. Jude CEO Richard Shadyac, “And while the roads are okay, there’s lots of issues with trees and power lines and fundamentally we were having difficulty getting volunteers. 30-percent of our volunteers canceled and 15-percent of our medical staff were not gong to be able to make it.”
Despite being cancelled the St. Jude Marathon raised $8.2 million for the hospital this year. Maybe more if you count all of the refunded registration fees that will now be donated to St Jude. I am proud to be part of Team GoJGo who raised $17,568.00 for Josiah Hackett and St. Jude. Thank you to everyone who donated. There is still time to donate now if you feel inclined. I look forward to running the St. Jude Marathon again next year.