BY DAVID FISHER
MEMPHIS (July 28) — Local runners say they plan to participate in this year’s St. Jude virtual marathon to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is a not-for-profit charitable organization. Race week is November 29 through December 5, 2020.
On July 28, St. Jude representatives announced general registration opened for this year’s St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, which will be transformed into a virtual experience.
A spokesperson for St. Jude said, “As the pandemic continues to disrupt daily life, we’re deeply saddened that we’re not able to welcome our participants to Memphis this December. While nothing can truly replace an in-person event, we thought long and hard about what makes the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend memorable: the excitement of the downtown start line, the unpredictability of Memphis weather in December and, above all, our courses that run through the St. Jude campus. We’re viewing this as an opportunity. If we can’t be together, how can we bring Memphis and St. Jude to you?”
The St. Jude Virtual Marathon is a 26.2-mile trek through a course of the runners’ choosing. As participants train, they are invited to join with other runners in a four-month countdown to race week, with virtual activities, entertainment and ways to connect with fellow runners.
Those going all in for the full marathon may want to sign up for the brand-new Virtual 4-Race or Virtual 2-Race Challenge since participants will be running the other distances as they train anyway. Participants get a special medal, a leaderboard competition and bragging rights for being hardcore.
Runners signing up for the 4-Race Challenge will run a 5K (3.1-miles), 10K a half marathon (6.2-miles), and full marathon, for a total of 48.6 miles.
Participants may run three distances (in any order) any time between September and November. They must run their final distance during race week (November 29 – December 5).
Those registering for the 2-Race Challenge may choose any combination of two distances. They can choose two different distances or choose the same distance twice.
Dresden resident Kenneth Coker, who ran in the marathon the past five years, says, “When I heard it was going to be a virtual race, rather than a group competition, my eyes welled up because that race has been such a big part of what we do as runners every year. Even though it’s not going to be an in-person event, the cause must not go unfunded. There are still kids with cancer down there right now, and there’s still an opportunity to run this virtually and set up a fundraising account, as we have in years past. At the end of my running career, probably the money I raised for those kids will mean more than any fast races I ran.”
Another Dresden runner, Sara Rachels, says this is her third year to participate in a half marathon (13.1-mile run) in support of St. Jude. She said, “Those who visit the hospital and see the kids can’t help from being motivated to help any way they can. Once you participate in the race, you become part of the St. Jude cause.”
Rachels states, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, if the race were held in person, the entire course would have to be remapped. She explained the runners normally go through the campus and get to see the kids, but that’s not possible because of the crowds.
“Even people who don’t like to run participate,” she said. “It’s a way to raise money and get other people involved. There’s nothing else like it. It’s one of my favorite races.” She states the event is for anyone looking to get beyond all of the negativity of this year and to do something worthwhile. “It adds a positive spin to everything. You can’t go wrong with it.”
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas in 1962, with help from Lemuel Diggs and Thomas’ close friend from Miami, automobile dealer Anthony Abraham. The facility is a pediatric treatment and research facility focused on children’s catastrophic diseases, particularly leukemia and other cancers. The hospital costs about $2.8 million a day to run, but patients are not charged for their care
For more information about the virtual marathon, visit St. Jude’s website at https://www.stjude.org/get-involved/fitness-fundraisers/memphis-marathon/register.html
BY DAVID FISHER