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Stephane Cole was inspired to run for her health as well as the health of St. Jude patients.
One reason many people run the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is simple: to help raise awareness and money for kids fighting cancer and other deadly diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Black Girls Run! run/walk leader, Stephane Cole, was no exception.
Cole signed up to raise money as a St. Jude Hero for the 2013 St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon. After she learned about a family with three children in treatment at St. Jude, she had even more motivation to run in support of St. Jude patients and their families.
St. Jude Heroes are a special group of participants who, regardless of their endurance levels, run with generous hearts raising money to support St. Jude. “If you are a runner, the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend should be on your bucket list,” said Cole. “The impact of participating is life-changing, and as a new runner, the half marathon was a good challenge for me.”
Cole soon found out she would be challenged in more ways than one when, halfway into training, she began experiencing unusual pain and fatigue.
As she did her best to cope and continue training, the 37-year-old mother of two found out a month before the race that she suffered from lupus, a chronic, painful disease that results in the immune system attacking the body's cells and tissue. In spite of the diagnosis, Cole stayed the course and was encouraged by family, friends and her Black Girls Run! group. Through exercise, she found she could better cope with the disease, and it became her second reason to run. “When I move, I feel better,” she said. “Suddenly, lupus took a back seat, and I was running to save the lives of kids and to save my own life.”
Although Cole pushed through her training, inclement weather caused the race to be canceled for the first time in its 12-year history, leaving her disappointed until word spread that St. Jude Heroes raised $8.2 million for St. Jude. The accomplishment fueled excitement for an unofficial race day and runners across the city, including Cole, laced up their shoes to run at their own risk.
The act stirred Cole. “It was inspiring to see others, especially St. Jude Heroes, running. That was the most emotional experience — bonding with so many people I didn’t even know."
After the run, Cole received a personal Facebook message from the St. Jude patient mom with three children in treatment. The mother expressed her appreciation and what it meant to her that Cole ran anyway.
Elnora and her daughter, St. Jude patient Juliauna,served as motivation for Stephane
“She has three kids in treatment at St. Jude, and I have two healthy kids,” said Cole. “I had to at least try.”
Registration opened in May for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, and Cole is stretching her limit to run the full marathon this year. She will be among the members of Black Girls Run! encouraging Memphians to join their St. Jude Heroes team.
You can run for a reason, too, when you sign up for a race as a St. Jude Hero.