It has taken me a while to get this post completed, but I felt I had so much to say!, The first weekend of December, I participated in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend with my good friend Sherry. This was by far one of the most inspirational weekends that I have ever had. Between touring St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, hearing from the families of current and former patients, and the actual race itself, I have never been more in awe of the work done at St. Jude and what more I can do.
Thursday – Travel
Sherry and I drove to West Memphis, Arkansas from St Louis after work on Thursday. It’s just about a 4 hour drive for us straight down I-55. We stayed at the Knights Inn in West Memphis, a cute Marine-owned facility. A hot breakfast was provided along with all sorts of personal care items in the room, including a pair of slippers. The whole place was decorated in American flag decor. While not the most modern, it was very clean and the staff very personable.
Friday AM – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
We started the day with a tour of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We met other participants in the marathon weekend at the convention center for a bus ride over to the hospital complex. We had to go through security and I noticed that all cars had to go through security just to enter the complex.
We were dropped off in front of the Main Entrance to the hospital, with the statue of St. Jude greeting us. Directly across from the main entrance was the Danny Thomas ALSAC Pavilion. We had a brief introduction in the pavilion and met our tour guide. We learned that ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities) was also formed by Danny Thomas and is the fundraising and awareness organization for the hospital. Its sole mission is to raise the funds and awareness necessary to operate and maintain St. Jude. Danny Thomas was an entertainer, who when struggling in the industry, prayed to St. Jude for guidance, saying he would build a shrine to him. His shrine became what we know as St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
While at the hospital, we were able to see registration, the cafeteria, the research wing, the Teen Art Gallery, and various clinical areas. For privacy concerns, we were not allowed to take any pictures with or of patients, but we were allowed to take pictures of their beautiful art, made during art therapy.
After our hospital tour, we grabbed some lunch in downtown Memphis at a cute coffee shop / bar called Tamp & Tap. With soups, salads, sandwiches and all day breakfast, you can complete your meal with coffee or a local draft.
Friday PM – Juice Plus+Global Headquarters
Next, we headed to the Juice Plus+ Global Headquarters for another tour. Their offices are located in Collierville, just outside of Memphis. We were joined by other representatives of the Juice Plus+ company who were also participating in the marathon weekend. We were given a tour of the various offices within the building, including getting to see where our founder Jay Martin sits.
Outside of the Juice Plus+ building, there is a beautiful park-like setting with a pond and walking path for employees. Overlooking the grounds is a statue of two figures in conversation. It represents the relationships that we all have and how it takes relationships to build our business. It’s all about heart.
Friday PM – Race Expo
After our tour of Juice Plus+, it was finally time for us to hit the Race Expo. You began the expo by picking up your race bib. As a St. Jude Hero, I was able to go to a special VIP line, where in addition to my bib, I also received a St. Jude running hat and a wristband that would get me special perks throughout the expo and on race day. To become a St. Jude Hero, you have to commit to fundraise and raise at least $500. Raising more than $1,000 gives you even greater perks, such as a race jacket and hotel stay during the weekend. You also receive a special training t-shirt and race singlet while training, and incentives for meeting certain fundraising goals throughout the process. This was my second year as a St. Jude Hero and I’m already ready to sign up for next year.
After getting your bib, you head through the Race Store. There are St. Jude logo’d shirts, hats, gloves, mugs, you name it. So many great items! And as a Hero, you also get some credit to shop in the store. Next stop was race shirts. You get a great long-sleeve wicking shirt for registering for the race and it’s specific to the race that you entered (marathon, half marathon, etc.). Another Hero perk is getting your name on the Pace Cars and I was able to find my name this year!
As the title sponsor of the race, Juice Plus+ had a big display with volunteers sharing about whole food nutrition. And as a Hero, our wristbands got us a St. Jude branded shaker bottle and Juice Plus+ Complete individual packets. It was then on to the rest of the Expo vendors. There were hundreds of different vendors, some promoting other races, some selling running paraphernalia (shoes, clothes, gels, jewelry), and others promoting different food items (chocolate milk anyone?).
Friday PM – Juice Plus+ Reception
When registering for the race, I signed up on Team Juice Plus+, since I am a Juice Plus+ distributor. They invited us to a reception at an event hall just down the street from the convention center. With an open bar and heavy appetizers, it was quite the reception. Our founder, Jay Martin even showed up and addressed all the runners. They also recognized those runners who had raised over $2,000 with a special gift.
Friday PM – Pasta Party
Another perk of being a St. Jude Hero is a free ticket to the Pasta Party. Think of it as dining with thousands of your closest friends. Buffet tables were set up a green salad and a few types of pasta with marinara, meat sauce, and pesto. They even had a gluten free option. We sat down at a table in the back with a few open seats. Little did we know that there was a whole program scheduled for the party. Richard C. Shadyac Jr. , CEO of ALSAC, spoke to the audience, along with the father of patient. They also recognized the top fundraising individuals and teams. It was inspiring to hear the stories of current and former patients who are leading the fundraising efforts for the weekend. Up next – Rest for the Big Day!
Saturday AM – Race Time
The Big Day! The half marathon started at 8am, and they recommended that we be in our race corrals at 7:30am. After learning from last year, we walked one block parallel to the race start line and corrals to avoid the congestion. As a slow runner, my recommended corral was Corral 14. While walking to the corral, we were able to watch the first runners from the 10k race that started earlier. Sherry was participating in the 5k, which started after the marathon and half marathon.
And we were off! The race started at the corner of 2nd and Monroe in downtown Memphis. We started out heading north, but quickly turned around and entered Beale Street around Mile 1. We continued in a southern fashion until Mile 3, when we hit the waterfront. We stayed directly on Riverside Drive for 1 mile, but continuing north until Mile 5. From here, we turned east and made our way onto the campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. With the weather being warmer than usual, we were greeted by so many patients and families and you were reminded why you were there. We continued heading east until Mile 9 before turning around and back to AutoZone Park for the finish.
Entering AutoZone Park, the streets are line with spectators cheering you on. The actual finish line was just inside the park, entering from right field. The grassed out field was full of runners stretching and taking pictures and just taking in the moment. Once you were ready to move on, you proceeded off of the field and walked along the left field corridor to the outfield deck, where pizza, beer, donuts, chocolate milk, sports drink, and soup were waiting for us. We were also given access to the Juice Plus+ box in the stadium, where they had even more food for us.
I left this weekend so inspired! Between the hospital tour and Pasta Party, I was ready to donate everything that I had to St. Jude. I have already committed to myself to sign up as a St. Jude Hero at the Gold Level next year, raising at least $1,500!
Want to participate? Registration for St. Jude Heroes begins in May and open registration in June.
Want to donate? Donations for the 2017 Marathon Weekend will be accepted through the end of the year – http://heroes.stjude.org/rachelflavin