by Grace Herburger
The St. Jude Memphis Marathon had record numbers this year in runner registration, volunteers, money raised, and spectators, raising a larger question: what is the race’s effect on the hospital, the runners, and the city?
The St. Jude Marathon dates back to 1977. Starting as the Memphis Express Marathon, St. Jude took over the race in 2002 and in its first year, 2,900 runners raised just over $213,500. This year, 26,000 runners raised around $11.3 million dollars. Most of this fund was raised during the training of the 6,500 St. Jude heroes, runners who volunteer to raise at least $250 during their marathon training.
Runner and Memphis native Jon Autrey calls St. Jude his “home marathon.” After volunteering for 3 years, he decided to start running in the marathon. Now he has run the half marathon a few times and the full marathon 5 times. Autrey even won the marathon in 2015. He said that “most marathons are just marathons.” Boston, New Orleans, New York and Chicago are examples of these, but don’t raise money for such a great cause like St. Jude, where this marathon is the biggest single-day fundraiser for St. Jude. This is why he said that St. Jude is a “very special race that’s very close to [his] heart.”
It’s safe to say that the most unique and emotional part of the marathon route is around mile five when runners get to travel through the St. Jude campus. In fact, all four races run through St. Jude, where patients and their families, doctors and nurses line the route cheering on the runners. Unique experiences like these are what keep the 60% of runners who aren’t from Memphis coming back to run St. Jude every year.
Jessica Joshi (10) has run the St. Jude half for 4 years now. She, probably along with a lot of the runners, often gets asked “why would you want to run 13.1 miles?” But she answers back, “I am inspired by the St. Jude kids we are running for! If they can face cancer with bravery and resilience, I can run this race.”
Those out of town runners and their families were projected to spend over $30 million in Memphis this weekend in hotels, restaurants, and retail shops. So in addition to the St. Jude, the whole city of Memphis can showcase itself, hopefully getting the out-of-town runners to want to return to the city.
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