6,600 St. Jude Heroes
$11.2+ million for the kids of St. Jude
This past weekend my dad Phil and I joined the 1/2 of 1% of the US population who has completed a marathon. Every year since 2014 my dad and I have met in Memphis (he traveling from Connecticut and me from Colorado) to run the St. Jude Half Marathon. This year, in honor of our 5th
year, and because we love St. Jude, AND because we are little crazy, we decided that we would run the full - 26.2 miles.
Since dad and I live across the country from each other, we train “virtually”, checking in after long runs and sharing our run stats over various tracking apps. And because life happens, we hit our fair share of bumps in the marathon training road. Dad developed a kidney stone which lead to him needing surgery, nearly derailing his ability to run at all. I trained in seven different states over the months due to a marathon (pun intended) ESA travel season. We grieved for my grandfather, my dad’s stepfather, together during a 17-mile run after his funeral in October.
Running is a lonely sport. Once you start running over 5 miles it’s hard to find a friend who will join you. Other than the occasional smile or head nod, other runners on your path tend to keep to themselves. Looking back over my training, I have logged more than 450 miles in 3.5 months.
It wasn’t all fun. In fact, there wasn’t much of the training that was fun at all. And there were tears. Tears when, after just a few minutes into a long weekend run, my brain would start telling me that I couldn’t do this. What was I thinking? I’m not an elite athlete. My body isn’t strong enough to carry itself 26 miles. My mind isn’t strong enough to withstand the tedium of slow passing scenery and slow passing miles.
But there were other kinds of tears too. Tears after I finished my 20 mile training run along a river in South Carolina, realizing that yes, I just might pull this off. Tears of gratitude whenever a person I have never met donated to my fundraising page. And of course, there were a few quick tears as I held my dad’s hand and we crossed the finish line, letting the accomplishment and joy wash over me.
On the days when the runs were hard, when I would take the first few steps of a run that I knew would take me more than three hours to complete, I would think of why I was doing this. I would think of those St. Jude patients. If a six-year-old could sit in a room for three hours receiving his weekly dose of chemo, I could run. If a teenager could spend three hours in physical therapy re-learning to walk on a prosthetic after osteosarcoma took his leg, I could run. If a parent could drive three hours to Memphis with their baby in the back seat after being told St. Jude was the only hope for their child to live, I could run. And run I did.
No number of miles would ever be more stressful, more painful, more terrifying than what the kids and families of St. Jude were facing. So when I would start feeling sorry for myself, I pictured the halls of the hospital. I would think of all the amazing patients I have met – those who are surviving and thriving, those who are still fighting, and those who’s battle was lost but whose spirits live on.
Running a marathon is no small feat. It's hard and it's time consuming and it's life consuming. Will I do another full marathon? Maybe. Will I be back in Memphis next December, fundraising and running for the kids of St. Jude? Definitely. And I know my dad will be there by my side, too.
There's still a lot of work left to be done before Danny Thomas' dream is realized, that "no child should die in the dawn of life". My dream is that one day all the kids who pass through the halls of St. Jude or are saved by drugs and protocols created in those research towers have the chance to decide that they, too, are a little crazy, and just might sign up for a marathon of their own.
Charlotte and Phil together raised over $15,000 for this year’s race as part of Team ESA. ESA members from across the country who participated raised more than $81,000 this year for the kids of St. Jude. Check back soon for another post about Team ESA and how you can join us in Memphis next year!