St. Jude Hero Jen Pitts doesn’t run because she loves it.
“I’m not one of those people who thinks, ‘Man, I just need to get a good run in today. That’ll just make me so much happier,’” she said. “My preference would be, like, in a hammock somewhere with a glass of wine.”
Even so, Saturday would have marked her eighth year of running the half marathon in the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon, and ninth year overall as a St. Jude Hero. That’s almost a decade, then, of her devotion to the cause overcoming her “love-hate” relationship with lacing up those running shoes.
The marathon was postponed because of the COVID-19 virus — replaced by the St. Jude Heroes Virtual Run: Nashville Edition, in which runners are being asked to post pictures, including virtual start and finish lines, from their runs. Pitts, who hopes to participate in the virtual event, was two-thirds of the way to her fundraising goal of $3,000 when she stopped because of the pandemic. She plans to resume her fundraising efforts once some restrictions are lifted and life returns to something more like normal.
In the meantime, she’s spent part of her personal time sewing medical-grade face masks for a local hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she lives.
She estimates she’s made about 75-80 masks, and said, “I will say it was a lot more tedious than I expected.”
But, of course, we’ve established already that Pitts’ charitable acts aren’t necessarily about having fun, personally. So what drives her?
“I don’t feel like I do anything I would consider extra,” she said. “But I would say if there is any underlying motivation for me, I’m a believer and a follower of Christ. I feel like living that lifestyle out means serving people, and sacrificing.”
Pitts said St. Jude was “really the first charity I ever took on by myself, as an adult.” The connection came from listening to Country Cares for St. Jude Kids radiothons on Nashville’s WSIX-FM, aka “The BIG 98.”
“They would play the music and then they would have stories, parents and patients and ex-patients,” she said. “It’s always so moving.”
That was before Pitts became a runner — and a funny story about that.
“I got into running, gosh, 10 years ago now — mostly just because I was told that I shouldn’t be able to run,” she said. “I had injured my knees dancing in high school, and I was told I probably would never be able to run or do anything like that well again. So it was just kind of a personal challenge for me to be able to prove somebody wrong, I guess.”
That’s the same sort of determination in the face of doubt that built St. Jude. Which makes Pitts a St. Jude Hero more than just in name, or for the money she raises for the cause. She’s very much a Hero in the St. Jude spirit.
She said she runs “for the challenge to myself,” and for the charities that benefit. For “the people,” she said, “who are on the other end of it.”