Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My St. Jude Run

Group 2 of the East Peoria St. Jude Run.
Saturday, July 21st was my first ever St. Jude Run.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital was founded in Memphis, TN in 1962 by Danny Thomas. They treat children with different types of cancer and other serious diseases while never asking for any payment at all. It costs 1.7 million dollars to run the hospital for one day. The majority of that money comes from public contributions. Since they opened in 1962, St. Jude has developed protocols which have helped raise the survival rates of childhood cancers from less than 20% to over 80%.

Peoria, Illinois partnered up with St. Jude and became the Midwest Affiliate in 1972. In 1982 the Memphis to Peoria Run was born as a way to help raise money for St. Jude. Runners drive to Memphis and then run the 465 miles back to Peoria. Soon neighboring cities of Peoria started participating. There are now 29 different cities who participate by raising money and running to Peoria including Chicago and St. Louis. I participated in the East Peoria to Peoria Run.

The East Peoria run was founded because a family there had a child diagnosed with cancer at 11 years old. His mom, Nikki,  got involved and started the run. She, with the help of others, is still organizing the run 4 years later and her son, Corbin, is now a survivor. Corbin turned 16 this year and was able to to participate in the run for the first time. To say that this run, this year, was an emotional and monumental event is an understatement. Before the run, Nikki spoke to everyone and thanked them. She later told me the story of when they first learned of her son's diagnosis. It's everything heartbreaking and yet triumphant that you can imagine.

Corbin running one of his legs, 'survivor', is written on his arm.

My group, Group 2, met up the morning of the race. I already knew all but two of the ladies in my group. It didn't take long to see that those two were going to fit right in! We were all very excited as it was the first St. Jude run for everyone in our group. East Peoria's group of 46 runners was broken into smaller groups. Each smaller group is assigned 'legs' to run throughout the course while the caravan follows behind the runners and a police escort proceeds them. When your group's leg is done you hand off to the next group and get back in your van until your next leg. However, runners can also choose to keep running and do extra legs with the other groups if they like.

We went to the exchange location of our first leg to wait until our time to run. A family came out to see us and told us that their son is a St. Jude survivor. We got to meet him and talk with his parents for a few minutes. It was overwhelming. You know what you are doing and why but it really sinks in when you actually have people coming up and thanking you for what you are doing because their child was one who has personally benefitted from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. There really are no words to describe it.

One of the busier legs, Washington Street.

We ran our legs, I ran an extra two legs with a couple of other ladies from my group. Two of our legs were up hill, one in particular was quite treacherous. The other East Peoria runners were waiting at the top, cheering us on, thankfully that kept me going and I made it. I was glad to hand off that exchange! I kept forgetting to start and stop my Garmin for my legs. I ran somewhere between 9 and 10 miles all together.

While we were running on one of the busier roads, cars were honking as they drove by, people were cheering us on from their vehicles, some people came out of their houses to cheer. One family was standing at the end of their driveway cheering and they held up their little girl who had obviously lost her hair due to cancer treatments. They were clapping, waving, and yelling 'thank you' at us while we ran. I don't think any of us had a dry eye.

Heading over the bridge!
The last leg is a run over the Bob Michel bridge into Peoria. All of the smaller groups join for this run. I've ran this bridge several times over the last 3 years. It's always one of my favorite runs. This day, however, it took on a whole new meaning for me. I will never again run that bridge without thinking of St. Jude, the families and of course the children for whom we were running.

Once we were finished, we got to watch runners from the other cities come in. The Memphis runners were the last to come in. It's a sight that I can only describe as purely awesome. I felt so honored and proud to have been a part of something so incredible and good. I think everyone felt wrapped up in the moment as those runners came in. I know now that as long as I can run, I will be a St. Jude runner.

Peace, Love, Happiness!

If you have ever had the slightest urge to run for St. Jude, I encourage you to do it. 
You will not regret it. 
If you would like to donate to 
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital you can do so at anytime through their website. 

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