Thousands of supporters worldwide collectively took part in the 19th annual St. Jude Memphis Marathon® Weekend Virtual Experience presented by Juice Plus+® on Saturday, Dec. 5, the first time the beloved Memphis event has gone entirely virtual, expanding beyond its Mid-South boundaries while encouraging participants in communities around the world to take part in support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®.
The feet of nearly 15,000 registered participants pounded the pavement in places the world over in support of the lifesaving mission of St. Jude: Finding cures. Saving children.® That number includes an astounding 6,600 participants new to the event, over 4,200 dedicated St. Jude Heroes® and 822 patient families. Those who registered represent all 50 states and Washington, D.C.; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Puerto Rico; and 72 foreign countries.
Prior to race day, committed St. Jude Heroes received the esteemed Hero Among Us recognition, usually given to an individual who exemplifies the St. Jude spirit. This year it was shared among 2,600 runners who, in an unprecedented year, stayed committed to fundraising for the patient families at St. Jude, who never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
“The St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is among my favorite events of the entire year, from the electrifying opening ceremony to the participants from across the world running and walking through the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus, to the emotional finish line celebrations with patients, families, St. Jude Heroes and thousands of supporters,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “While this year had to be virtual to keep everyone safe, today, I am overwhelmed with gratitude by the thousands of St. Jude supporters worldwide who continued supporting us from a distance, running all across the globe, from the military base in Kuwait to the St. Jude Hero running in the Swiss Alps to our Heroes running in Memphis and other places across America. Their tenacity and commitment, like that seen in St. Jude doctors, nurses, researchers and patient families, demonstrates once again that together, anything is possible.”
Before the official race day, some registered participants logged their miles in the form of virtual race challenges. One of those participants, three-time cancer survivor Hillary Husband, completed a 5K, 10K and half marathon from her location in Louisiana, slowing down long enough to receive her master’s degree in mathematics along the way. On Saturday, Husband walked the entire marathon in honor of her very first marathon, which she completed in slippers over the course of weeks in the halls of St. Jude following a bone marrow transplant, her IV pole trailing behind her.
Marathon week kicked off in spectacular fashion last Sunday with an opening ceremony, followed by a week of virtual programs that included a tour of a St. Jude research lab with Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, assistant member in the Department of Oncology; the reveal of a digital mosaic with hundreds of images of participants; a virtual No More Cancer Rally; and the reveal of the official marathon pace car, sponsored by Landers Auto Group and featuring the names of more than 2,000 St. Jude Heroes.
Participants from Memphis, Dallas, Seattle and even places as far away as Switzerland shared photos and videos of their experience using #StJudeHeroes and #RunForStJude. Many held a finish line celebration by wearing their race shirts and finisher medals.
Nowhere is the mission of St. Jude felt more strongly than in its hometown of Memphis, where Paula and her family participated in memory of their daughter and sibling, Carson Elizabeth. The family has been taking part in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend ever since Carson passed away in 2015 because, as Paula wrote on their St. Jude Hero fundraising page, it is what Carson would have wanted.
Tony Reed, co-founder of the National Black Marathoners Association and the first Black person in the world to run a marathon on all seven continents, took part in the virtual experience from Dallas, pledging to return to Memphis in 2021 for the 20th anniversary of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend. For his run, Travis Ilitch, a 17-year-old St. Jude supporter from the Detroit area who has raised over $85,000 for St. Jude, completed a 5K with his mom in memory of a St. Jude patient whom he never met but who would have been graduating high school this year, just like Travis.
The work St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is doing today is only possible because of the community’s support. Thanks in part to St. Jude Heroes, fitness enthusiasts who fundraise while training, more than $90 million has been raised throughout the history of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon® Weekend, and ensuring that no matter what, St. Jude won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
It’s not too late to support a friend, family member or St. Jude Hero who took part the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend Virtual Experience – donations can still be made through Jan. 4 at stjude.org/marathondonate.
About St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Its purpose is clear: Finding cures. Saving children.® It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude won't stop until no child dies from cancer. St. Jude shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food. Visit St. Jude Inspire to discover powerful St. Jude stories of hope, strength, love and kindness. Join the St. Jude mission by visiting stjude.org, liking St. Jude on Facebook, following St. Jude on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, and subscribing to its YouTube channel.
ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital