This past weekend I was in Tennessee to run in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. The Race was a joy, with the mostly flat course passing along the mighty Mississippi, past the blues halls on historic Beale Street, past the Gibson guitar factory, and along beautiful mansion row on North Parkway, to a welcome finish at the AutoZone baseball stadium. Along the way there was live music and plenty of support from the locals (including free beer at the unofficial rest stations, for those brave enough – or foolish enough! – to drink and run).
The highlight of the weekend wasn’t the race, however, or my sampling of the famous Memphis bar-b-que. It was my visit to St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital. Founded in the 1960s by entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Judes is dedicated to helping save children from live-threatening diseases, especially cancer. It now treats over 7,800 children a year, providing free treatment, and also free lodging, food, and support to their families. Its research division has produced new protocols and life-saving drugs in they battle, improving the survival rate of some forms of blood cancer from a heartbreaking 4% to a heroic 96%. Hearing this story, and seeing the bald but happy children in the kid-friendly facility was a life-changing moment.
Over 24,000 people participated in the 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon this past weekend, but the important number is this: together they raised almost $10.5 million dollars to continue the mission of the St. Judes Hospital. To find out more about the hospital and next year’s race weekend, visit http://www.stjude.org/memphis-marathon.html.