I’ve never considered myself a runner but when I got a text notification from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital earlier this week about St. Jude Heroes VIP race registration for St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, I felt the same nervous excitement I had when I signed up last year.
This past December I ran my first ever half marathon as part of St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend and before I even left Memphis, I knew I’d be back. Running friends said I’d get hooked on races but I didn’t believe them so how did this happen?
Blame it on the runner’s high that I still feel 6 months later thanks to a fundraising race inspired me to run for a reason.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital leads the way the world understands, treats, and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. I hadn’t ever run anything longer than a 5K before but was compelled to lace up my running shoes and register with St. Jude Heroes after visiting the campus last spring.
As a mom of two healthy kids, the thought of being told “your child has cancer” was terrifying but my visit to St. Jude showed me that it is a place of hope. Not only is St. Jude one of the most highly rated nonprofits and a leader in treating childhood cancer, it is a place that is dedicated to letting families focus on helping their child live. St. Jude takes of the big things and the smallest details. Families never pay for treatment, food, and housing so they can concentrate on taking care of their child. When parents pull up to the front doors for treatment, they hand over their keys, help their child out of the car and into one of the awaiting Red Flyer wagons, while someone parks their car. Isn’t that amazing?
From big things to the smallest details, St. Jude takes care of families so it’s hard not to support an organization that supports children with cancer and their families in such incredible ways.
If you’ve never run a race before but have been thinking about it, running the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is the one to start with and it’s best to sign up this month to run with St. Jude Heroes. May is the month for Heroes registration and it doesn’t matter if you want to run the 5K, 10K, half, or full marathon, you want to join as a VIP Hero and here’s why.
9 Reasons to Run with St. Jude Heroes During St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend
Be a Part of Something Huge
When you sign up to run the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, you’re signing up to be a part of something huge. Last year I was among 23,000 participants. My family joined 40,000 spectators to cheer on runners who were there for the 15th Marathon Weekend that raised over $10 million dollars.
Let the magnitude of that sink in. $10 million dollars. 23,000 runners running distances ranging from the mile-long kids run to the full marathon. It’s a lot of people in the best way!
This year YOU could be among the 25,000 expected to be in Memphis for St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend and even if you’re wary of crowds, this is the friendliest and most supportive crowd you will ever be a part of!
Fundraising Matters More Than Distance or Personal Best
Last year my family and I pulled into our driveway and immediately headed to a neighborhood event where my half marathon apparently wasn’t good enough for one of my son’s classmates. He scoffed at me running a half rather than the full 26.2 but before I could explain that this was the one time that money matters, he was off.
I never did get a chance to explain that my primary goal was raising $2,500 for St. Jude, not the distance I ran. I was proud to have finished my first half marathon but more thrilled to have surpassed my fundraising goal with donations totaling $2,650.
When you register as a St. Jude Hero, you can choose to raise $500, $1500, or $2500. Each fundraising level comes with different perks (more on those later!) and St. Jude provides all Heroes with a personal fundraising website and support to help you achieve your goal.
Scared of raising money? I was nervous too but I found that the more I talked about my race, the more people wanted to support my efforts and every donation, no matter how large or small, counted towards my goal.
St. Jude Heroes Can Register to Run Before Everyone Else
Are you a trendsetter who likes to be ahead of everyone else? While you might not care about finishing first on race day, you do get first dibs on race registration by signing up to raise $500-$2500 as a St. Jude Hero. You’re also guaranteed a spot in the race of your choice before registration opens up to the public. Tip: I’ve heard that the 10K and half marathons are the most popular distances so if you’re considering running, don’t wait too long! Register as a Hero before general race registration opens up since there might not be a spot in for your preferred race distance when June rolls around!
St. Jude Patients and Families are Your Cheerleaders
Bagpipers, a student marching band, creative signs, and neighborhoods that turn race day into a party and hand out beer, popsicles, and champagne, and local businesses that put out signs cheering St. Jude Heroes on made each of my 13. 1 miles fun. Hydration stations with water, Gatorade, and Nuun were set up every mile after mile 3 but the best part was running through the St. Jude campus.
I had heard during my visit that St. Jude families line the race route on campus to cheer on runners and as I made the turn on to Shadyac Avenue (named for current St. Jude President and CEO, and marathon participant, Rick Shadyac), I had to brace myself. A FedEx plane sat in the middle of the street and just beyond I could see a giant St. Jude banner suspended over the entrance to campus.
Knowing the patients and families ahead were the reason I was running made tear up as I told myself that the people inside these gates were the reason why I was running. I took a deep breath, entered campus with a smile, and took my time giving high fives to every outstretched hand, sometimes zig zagging across the street so I didn’t miss anyone. Even though I may have added distance to my 13.1 by criss-crossing the street and taking my time on this part of the race course, I have no regrets. That part of the race course provided me with the emotional capital to keep going for 8 more miles and reminded me of the reasons for running.
St. Jude Memphis Marathon Motivates Kids to Run and Raise Money Too
I was so focused on training and fundraising that I had forgotten that St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend can be a family affair! My kids met other kids on our plane who were running as St. Jude Heroes and had been working to fundraise just like me and asked if they could run! Fortunately, it wasn’t too late to get them involved!
If you’re considering running, now is the perfect time to ask your kids if they’d like to join you in raising money for St. Jude too. There are numerous ways that kids can get involved during Marathon Weekend. They can sign up as St. Jude Heroes too or can run the St. Jude Kids’ Marathon.
The St. Jude Kids Marathon is a great way for kids 11 and under to participate in the marathon weekend. They can walk or run 25.2 miles in the weeks leading up to race day, and then run the final mile of their marathon with an adult. Younger children can participate by running the 1 mile course on race day without completing the kids marathon.
The best part is running into the chute, finishing at the official St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend finish line, and being handed a medal. My kids got a kick out of the fact that their Kids’ Marathon medal was larger than my half marathon one!
The St. Jude Kids’ Marathon is a great way for kids to get involved in an age appropriate way. Marathon Weekend inspired my kids to return this year and run with me!
See the Sights of Memphis on the Race Route
Not only is Memphis home of St. Jude but it’s also a place where you can get fantastic barbecue, learn about the history of the civil rights, and take in the sights and sounds that will delight music lovers.
The race route not only takes you through the St. Jude campus but on Riverside Drive that runs along the Mississippi River, down Beale Street where you can hear live blues music as you run, past the Bass Pro Pyramid (it used to be a NBA stadium!), and near the National Civil Rights Museum. Full and half marathoners will also get to run by the Memphis Zoo, Sun Studios (aka the birthplace of rock and roll), and the St. Jude Target House, a long-term housing facility for patients and families on campus for more than 90 days. While you don’t run by Graceland, be on the lookout for Elvis in the starting corral or along the race route!
VIP Race Perks and Swag
In case you need more incentives to sign up, VIP St. Jude Heroes get phenomenal race perks and swag. By registering as a St. Jude Hero this month, you’ll get:
- Training plan with coaching videos
- Personal fundraising website
- Fundraising support, including weekly emails with tips
- The chance to earn prizes based on how much you raise
- The satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference with every step you take
When you raise $100 you earn your St. Jude Race Singlet to wear during race day if you choose. There’s something about being in a huge crowd of people who are working towards the same goal but it’s more special to be among runners wearing the St. Jude race singlet. The burgundy tanks on runners are like a badge of honor signifying that they’ve raised at least $100. The singlet means you’re part of a club of cool kids who care about raising money to ensure that parents of kids at St. Jude never have to pay for treatment, housing, or food during their stay.
Other mailings throughout the course of my training kept me motivated. Upon arriving in Memphis, I picked up my race packet and other items I earned through my fundraising like my official training shirt, credit to shop at the St. Jude race expo, and my St. Jude Heroes jacket.
I also earned entry to the pre-race pasta dinner the night before the race and access to the Heroes Lounge where there was a fantastic view of the finish line as well as food and drink to help me refuel post-race.
All these perks, along with a special line for Heroes registration, definitely made me feel like a race VIP!
Run Individually or Part of a Team
With 25,000 people expected to register to run in the various distances throughout St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend you won’t be alone but if you’re feeling like you want the comfort of a team, join mine! For the second year in a row, I’m serving as team captain for the Bloggin’ Miles for St. Jude team and we welcome everyone! Beginners or experienced runners, 5K or marathoners, kids and parents are all welcome to join us as we fundraise and run for a cause.
The great thing about joining a team is the connections to others as you train for your individual race. As the team captain, I’ll check in with you to see how I can help you with your fundraising and training goals. Even though we may not be training together in real life, it’s nice to know that there’s support out there and to cheer each other on even before Marathon Weekend.
It’s also nice to set a bigger dollar amount that is your team fundraising goal. Every St. Jude Hero VIP sets an individual fundraising goal and our team goal is based on that amount. Last year our goal was to raise $5000 and we surpassed it! This year I’d love for us to surpass $5000 again and we are well on our way!
The Satisfaction of Doing Something Amazing to Help Others
It was amazing to go into the race knowing that I had raised $2500 for St. Jude families but then the satisfaction of being handed my first race medal was the cherry on top!
If you’ve ever thought of running a race, St. Jude Memphis Marathon is the time to do it. Learn more and sign up to be a St. Jude Heroes VIP to have the benefit of the many race perks that come with signing up to fundraise for the kids and families of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, sign up to run with my Bloggin’ Miles for St. Jude team or make a tax deductible donation support my St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race.
Read my past posts about St. Jude:
- St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend: The Rare Time When Money Means Everything
- Why I’m running 13.1 Miles for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
- Why You’ll Love Target Even More After Seeing these Photos
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Makes Education a Priority to Kids through St. Jude School
I am a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital ambassador but am not compensated for my role and although was given a code to cover my race registration, I personally donated the amount to my race. All other race expenses for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon beyond the perks I received as a Gold Entry St. Jude Hero are personally funded. Some photos courtesy of St. Jude.