When I think about the St Jude Marathon in Memphis, the first word that comes to mind is “inspiring”. I don’t think that there is ever going to be a marathon for me that will top the emotional and inspirational high that you get here. From the minute you walk into the expo to pick up your packet and see the signs, the shirts, and everything that reminds you of who exactly this race is for, you are driven. There is a reason that this marathon fills up in a day.
Jenifer and I both purchased ornaments at the expo and waited in a ridiculously long line to pay (totally worth it.) We got to the expo near the end of the last day so the merchandise was about wiped out. Then we ate a delicious dinner and came back to the hotel to get ready for the morning.
When we woke up, the weather was great. It was cloudy and gray, in the 50’s and perfect. I of course woke up extra early because I am always nervous and worried about oversleeping. I decided to take a hot bath to help warm up my muscles, and I actually think it helped. I ate my standard pre marathon meal, peanut butter and jelly and a banana. I had brought just about every clothing option with me, capris, long sleeve, short sleeve, shorts, tank, and a hat. I decided on my new Nike Tempo shorts and a tank because even in the fifties it can get warm. To be honest we did not realize how windy it was so I was glad I didn’t grab my hat. I don’t think it would have stayed on! it was without a doubt the windiest race I have ever ran. Although there were moments where the wind was challenging, I think it kept us cool, which for me is key. The incredibly gray skies were without a doubt a blessing for me. The sun and I get along great for a pool day, but not for a long run!
Somewhere around mile 4 we entered into the St. Jude’s complex. This was the most memorable moment of any marathon I have run. Seeing all of the parents, the workers, and the children that are patients there sitting outside is just an overwhelming feeling. I felt myself starting to cry and I thought “No! You can’t cry and run!” I am not sure if many people have tried but I have and it is so hard to do! But wow seeing those sweet kids who were clearly undergoing chemo sitting out there was way more motivation than I needed. All along the run there were inspiring pictures, posters, and even video screens playing clips of the amazing things being done at St. Jude’s. There were so many groups of people running in honor of either a child at St Jude’s or a child that had sadly lost their battle with cancer. Jenifer and I pinned a picture of Hope and her mom to our bib, to remind us every step of the way that we had one special patient in mind.
Then about mile 12 that point in the race I hate for some reason came, when the marathoners and the half marathoners split. Then I always think to myself, ugh why didn’t I do the half?! And when it’s a race and I am doing the half, I think whew thank gosh I am not doing the full!! And there I was, doing the full marathon. For a few miles I let it get the best of me mentally and it seemed as though I just had so far to go. But like it said in that article I shared before the race, marathons will do just that to you. They will beat you down and make you question everything you’re doing, and then they will turn right back around and prove to you that you can rise above. So about mile 14 I had to have a little self-talk and tell myself not to let it get the best of me. I reminded myself of what Hope Reynolds and her family had gone through, and literally out loud I kept telling myself…..” Yes You Can”. By mile 16 I was feeling brand new and I paced myself successfully. I ended up beating my goal which was to just come in right below a 3:40 so I could qualify for Boston 2016. I ended up running a 3:31 which was my second best marathon ever. I came in 5th out of 254 women in my age group. I was good with that! It was such a feel good day. Jenifer ran her very best half marathon ever and I was so proud of her too!
This race is clearly a meaningful one. But that day I was also reminded of something that I often forget. Going into this race I was so nervous. I had such a horrible stomach ache and a not so great run in Boston that it is always scary to try again after something like that. I doubted myself so much going into this race. I wasn’t sure if I had it in me anymore to run a qualifying time. I had prepared myself to have to try again in April. Having a good run there was validation that I hadn’t lost my ability, I just doubted my ability based on one bad day. I mean if we don’t have confidence in ourselves, how do we expect for anyone else to see us as someone to have confidence in?
I could never in a million years recommend this race enough. It’s flat. It’s fun. It’s inspiring. I will be back next year, no doubt about that.