Jessi’s running group, Segment #4
So here’s the logistics of the run: there are 171 Memphis to Peoria runners, each asked to raise at least $3000. They run the 465-mile trek from Memphis, TN to Peoria, IL. The runners are broken into two teams, Gold Team or Blue Team. Within each team there are 9-10 motor homes that we live in for the 5 days we’re on the run. We eat, sleep, and somewhat shower on these motor homes. Needless to say, you and your motor home mates get pretty cozy after running, sweating, and sleeping together for 5 days.
All 20 motor homes leave from Peoria, IL Tuesday morning and drive down to the St. Jude hospital in Memphis, TN. Wednesday morning we all meet in the hospital for awards for runners who have run for 10, 15, or 20 years (this year was the 31st annual run), and runners who have raised over $10,000 the previous year. The head MD of St. Jude, Dr. Bill Evans usually gives us a talk about what’s going on in the hospital. The big thing for the past couple of years has been the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project that St. Jude has partnered with Washington University to complete the entire genome of 600 cancer patients. I was able to visit the lab and talk to the researchers at Washington University the week before the run, and they are doing some pretty amazing stuff. It will be exciting to see how it changes the way we treat cancer in the future using our own unique DNA. Rick Shadyac, the CEO of ALSAC (the fundraising part of St. Jude) also gave us a pep talk before the run.
The Head MD of St. Jude, Dr. Bill Evans
At noon on Wednesday we started our 465-mile journey back to Peoria. Since there are 171 runners, the runs are broken down by team which further breaks the runs down by segment. For example, I was on Gold Team which runs first. I also ran segment 4. So Gold Team started running at noon on Wednesday in 6 mile segments. Segment 1 ran the first 6, segment 2 miles 6-12, etc. All the Gold Team motor homes drove 6 miles ahead of the runners currently running and cheered them on as they finished up. While the Gold Team was running, the Blue Team drove approximately 50 miles ahead of us and camped. At the camp sites we ate, showered, and slept for 4-5 hours at a time and waited for the running Team to meet up with us. While we were running, there was always a “Chase Van” following us to provide water, Gatoraide or rest if needed it. Each Team ran 5 different times. So for each runner its 6 mile segments x 5 = about 30 miles. There is always someone running at all times, rain or shine. One of my favorite runs was through Carbondale, IL around 2am. There always seems to be interesting characters after midnight in a college town…
Us runners eat pretty well on the run. We have a motor home of chefs that drive ahead to our camp site spots and prepare meals for us like steak sandwiches, spaghetti, eggs & bacon…we definitely got spoiled when it comes to food. There’s also some very nice places we stop that over the years have wanted to help us in some way. In Kentucky there’s a place called Harper’s Ham that makes us BLTs and in Pana, IL we stopped at the pool for a potluck. However, the living conditions in the motor homes may be a little less than ideal. When we started running in Memphis this year it was 105 degrees, and most of the generators can’t seem to handle that kind of heat, which means the air goes out at least once in every motor home every year. And when I say we “shower” in the motor homes, I use that word carefully. Since there are 8 people in your motor home who need to shower, there’s a very limited supply of water. A St. Jude Run shower means turning on the water for a couple seconds to rinse off, turning it off to soap up, and turning it back on a couple more seconds to rinse off again. The sleeping arrangements can also get pretty interesting. Our motor home this year had 8 people, which meant 3 people had to sleep on the floor and 2 on a less than comfortable couch. While many runners take vacation time to participate in the run, it’s not your regular vacation. However every runner is dedicated and puts up with the bumps along the way for one reason: the kids.
A patient from the hospital sees the runners off
So after 5 days of running, eating, “showering”, and getting a total of about 15 hours of sleep, we arrived in Peoria, IL. All 170 of us ran across the bridge to meet the other runners and our families. There are 28 auxiliary runs from local places like Elmwood, IL to Chicago and St. Louis that meet in Peoria. The 2000 runners from all the different runs jog into the Peoria Civic Center for the St. Jude telethon. At the telethon, the runs present their checks and the phone lines are opened for people to call in and donate. Local St. Jude families are interviewed to tell their story and how St. Jude has changed their lives. After a long week, it reminded us of why we come back every year and put in all the miles: for the kids.
This year a dedicated group of just 171 runners raised $820,000 for St. Jude. All the runs combined raised $2,900,000. And the total number for the telethon including all the runs, the donations called in from people all over central Illinois, and different fundraisers throughout the year was $7.1 million. When I heard that number I couldn’t be prouder of my community.
Motor home mates, Gold 9
The St. Jude Run has changed my life significantly. Every year I look forward to meeting up with my St. Jude family once again. They are the most dedicated people I have ever met and I couldn’t be prouder to call myself a runner. I even met my fiancé on the run (this was his 11th year)! Jon’s (my fiancé) sister Amy was a St. Jude patient 14 years ago who lost her life. Jon and his family are proof that you’re not just going to a hospital, you’re joining a family. Even though Amy lost her life, her family has spent the last 14 years taking care of the rest of their St. Jude family. Which is why there is no place like St. Jude. We run for those who can’t, and we will keep running until we don’t need to anymore.
Jessi and her fiancé, Jon
Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others. – Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital