At this point last week, 20,000+ runners were supposed to be running in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend events. It was going to be my third consecutive year running for the kids of St. Jude, and honestly, I was aiming for another PR. But a funny thing happened in route to race day, Mother Nature decided that December 7 was not a good day to run and dumped ice and cold upon the Memphis area. Some may argue that the event cold have gone on as planned, but the St. Jude powers that be made the difficult decision to cancel the race for the safety of the runners, spectators, and volunteers. Many people forget that races require more than the runners to transpire, and I cannot imagine how brutal it would have been to work an aid station for six hours in single digit temperatures. Not to mention with the fact about ice accumulation from the discarded water cups around the stations. St. Jude made the correct call. It was a call that disappointed all of us, pissed off a few, baffled others, and inconvenienced most.
But a crazy and inspiring thing happened after St. Jude canceled the race. Some of us crazy SOB’s ran the race anyway! That’s right, all over Memphis, and even the southeast, there were courageous runners sporting their St. Jude Heroes singlets, bibs, and plenty of cold equipped running gear. One group ran the majority of the course and even received their medals at the end since the medals were already at the finish line. Some ran in their neighborhoods, some on treadmills, and some out of towners ran once they returned to their hometowns. It truly was an amazing experience.
I am one of those people who ran the race despite it being canceled. I logged my cold 13.1 miles for several reasons. One, the event is about the celebration and awareness of the wonderful patients at St. Jude. We are running for those kids, therefore, despite cancellation, I ran for those kids. Second, I was scheduled for 13.1, so I wanted to run 13.1. Simple as that. Three, in a weird way, I hope people seeming myself and the others running around town will inspire them to join the race next year. To raise money for St. Jude and make the event an even bigger success. This year, the heroes program raised a record $8.1 million for the kids of St. Jude with over 14,500 individuals competing as heroes! Maybe next year the total can eclipse $10 million!
After cancellation, St. Jude handled the situation better than anyone could have imagined. The Heroes Lounge was still open downtown for all heroes to enjoy. St. Jude communicated every step of the way, and provided several alternatives for registered participants. Registration fees could be donated to St. Jude, refunded, and transferred to the Rock ‘N Roll New Orleans, Phoenix, or Nashville events. All race shirts, medals, and goodie bags that were unclaimed could be mailed to you or donated to St. Jude. Also, all registered participants for this year’s race will have priority registration for next year’s event! Any of these options would have appeased most, but all of them truly were above and beyond! Of course, there were gripes and confusion about some of these details. Some people want their race materials despite the cancellation. Then some people cannot understand why you would want something for a race you did not run. My argument to that logic is everyone is different, but a lot of people did run this race, organized or not, so if they want that medal, fine. If not, I am sure a patient at St. Jude will enjoy it.
Personally, I do not know how or if to claim this race. It obviously does not count towards my total of half marathons which is a bummer because it would have been my fourth in four months, but I will live. I might count it as a virtual run since there was, at least at first, an infrastructure for the event and several others running with the option of a medal and race shirt I wanted them. Also, how does this race affect my race streak? Virtual races have counted during the streak, but what about canceled races that I ran anyway? I made it to December and through an injury, I am not going to let a little bit of ice derail my goal for the year! I guess I will find a local 5K or something just to cover my bases.
Also, this was the weirdest run that I have experienced in my neighborhood since people were honking, waving, and even taking my picture! These gestures told me that I was making a wise decision running for St. Jude that day. These people did not know me from Adam, but these saw the St. Jude logo and thought about those kids, even if it was just for a moment. I hope that the other runners experienced the exact same sensation!