Saturday’s St. Jude Memphis Marathon was unlike any other marathon I’ve run this year, so my race report will be much unlike any other race report I’ve written. I had a tough day, but I’m really glad I ran this race. I have to break this one up into segments, because this isn’t really about the race.
Why I Ran Memphis
This is basically the 61st race of Operation Jack, even though it was only my 57th marathon of the year. I originally had 60 on the schedule, but Operation Jack supporter Lance Haney asked me to come run Memphis with him. I was already locked in for Las Vegas the next day, so adding the race forced me to bump my year from 60 to 61 marathons.
I was fine with that, because really, at that point, what’s the difference?
Why I Feel Like I Was Meant To Be There
I don’t talk about my faith all that much here, but I know that on multiple occasions, I’ve mentioned that I’m extremely grateful for how I’ve been blessed and I truly believe that God has led me down the path I’ve been on for a reason. When I talk about the path I’m on, I’m not talking about Operation Jack — I’m talking about everything since the day I was born. I’m part of His plan, and I’m grateful for that.
I missed registering before the race filled up, so the only way I was able to get in was to become a St. Jude’s Hero, which meant raising $500 for St. Jude. St. Jude is a hospital in Memphis that is a national leader in pediatric cancer treatment and research. My focus is on autism this year, but I didn’t mind switching gears to raise money for such a great cause.
I gave Lance my word that I’d run Memphis with him and this was my only way in. So I did it and raised the money pretty quickly. Even before I had to become a Hero, I was happy that my entry fee was going towards such a great cause. St. Jude sent me a special maroon Heroes singlet and I knew without a moment of hesitation that I’d wear that instead of my Operation Jack tank for the race. This would be a St. Jude race for me. It was obviously meant to be that way.
About three weeks ago, Lance got a stress fracture and had to drop out of the race. I was pretty bummed for a few reasons. Obviously, I don’t want anybody to get injured and not be able to participate in a goal race. But this also meant I wouldn’t get to meet him.
Both of my reasons for originally running the race changed. I have a lot of faith that everything worked out the way it was supposed to.
The Day Before
Since I was in Memphis, I got to meet up with Laura Sullivan, who I got to meet in Mississippi and Nashville earlier this year. She’s a big supporter of what I’m doing and has been there to kick my butt behind the scenes when I needed it, so it was good to spend some time visiting with her again. She was in town to run the half.
The night before the race, I went to the Heroes dinner with three people I’ve met through Operation Jack — Chris Humphries (who was with his wife), Jennifer Whitter and Ashley Schafer. Chris was also a Hero for the race, although he raised a lot more money than me. Jennifer is great and helped me out a lot when I was in St. Louis in October. Ashley cracks me up and ran Memphis as her first marathon. She digs what I’m doing and it was great to see her.
We all sat at the same table and were having a good time. Then the program began. The speaker was the mother of an 11-year-old girl who died last year of neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops in the nerve cells of children. Hearing her speak was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve heard in a long, long time. I think the part that got me the most was how she said her daughter told her within weeks of her death that she wouldn’t have changed her fate, because she thought God was saving her from something worse down the road.
I guess you had to be there, but it took every ounce of testosterone in my body not to sob uncontrollably. My eyes definitely welled up with tears and my chest was convulsing. To be there and to hear that was a a very real reminder to me of how fortunate I am. When she was talking about her daughter, I tried to imagine my Ava being in her daughter’s position and I couldn’t. What I raised is a drop in the bucket for St. Jude. But I was glad I did.
Without being a Hero, I wouldn’t have been at the dinner and heard that. Again, it was all meant to be.
So anyways, I ran the race. The course is moderately hilly. Not an easy course, but not an incredibly difficult course. Temps were fairly cool, in the mid-50s at the start and probably about 60 when it ended. Humidity was very high (84 percent) and it was windy, maybe 20-25 mph at several points in the race.
Walking around before the race, my right knee started to hurt the way it has been lately — flare-ups from tendinits and an inflamed IT band. Once I got going, I felt fine, though. Well, my knee did. My body never felt good. I knew from about the first mile that I didn’t have it and it was going to be a long day.
I started to feel sluggish at about mile 8 and I could feel my stride starting to shorten at about mile 12. That’s way too early for that. Things got progressively worse, although while the day seemed to drag on, the miles flew by. I guess I’m getting used to the routine.
I wasn’t crazy about the course. I enjoyed running down Beale, seeing the local culture. And at mile 2, I heard a house up on a hill blasting “Walking In Memphis,” which I guess I had to hear at least once. The highlight of the course was running through the St. Jude campus. There were a fair amount of people there. I don’t know if any of them were patients. I’d figure a lot of the adults were parents or relatives of patients.
Since I was wearing my Heroes singlet, I heard, “thank you hero!” a lot throughout the race from spectators. I heard it a lot at St. Jude, and I assumed that was coming from parents of patients. Again, my eyes started to well up. I was so glad to be a part of this and to have done a tiny part to help.
Throughout the race, it was constantly on my mind how much of a message I was getting. I knew I was meant to be there. I’m so grateful that while I have a son who has a permanent mental disability and will struggle with his autism forever, forever will be a long time. None of my kids have any life-threatening diseases.
So, I ran a marathon in 3:26, about 12 minutes slower than I’d hoped. Big deal. I get another try tomorrow. Life could be worse.
By the way, if you’d like to make a donation to St. Jude’s, click here to visit my donation page!
Me and Laura at the finish.