Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Running in Memphis, Part Two

Continuing on my St. Jude marathon weekend wrap up...

Friday (continued)

3:30 Hotel Check In

We stayed at a different hotel this year but the great news is, all the hotels downtown are within walking distance of the race and the expo/dinner/Friday night activities. Our hotel this year was across the street from the expo and dinner. This was the first year our family brought enough people to have two hotel rooms. So fun! Luckily, we got adjoining rooms. So Dad and Mom were in one, Eric and I in the other. We split Pete and his girlfriend.

Once we unloaded our luggage, toaster and all, we shuffled on over to the expo. St. Jude runs an amazing expo. It's quick to grab your race number, there's lots of deals and fun stuff to look at, and there are always great speakers. My favorite part, though, is the amount of fun St. Jude merchandise and the St. Jude Heroes area. I got some sleeves to wear on the race, a pair of shorts, and E got an armband, all with St. Jude logos. We may have gotten some other race gear from other booths too. Then we made it over to the Heroes area to pick up our dinner tickets and lounge passes. We may have also gathered some swag, like I heart St. Jude tattoos. They had a fun photo booth, where we each got fun photo strips.  And a side photo area where this beauty was taken:

5:45 Heroes Dinner

If you raise $500, you get a free ticket to the St. Jude pasta dinner. Our team has been going for a few years now and it is one of the highlights. Every year I forget to bring tissues and every year I end up sniffling into my sleeve.  This year there were more Heroes (that's what they call anyone who agrees to fundraise, FYI) than ever before. There were SO MANY people. As we entered, St. Jude staff and volunteers cheered us on with pom pons, cowbells, and lots of shouts. Oh, I cried. I can't explain how hard it is to be called a hero by people who fight childhood illness and disease every day. It will never get less humbling. It's just too much. Here's an arial (aka--taken by Eric) photo of us walking into the dinner.

Our team filled a whole table and I proceeded to load up on pasta. One of my main concerns throughout the week was getting enough carbs so I let loose. I am so glad I did.  After we had filled our bellies, the speakers started.  The emcee, who has been running and supporting St. Jude since the first marathon, was Joe Birch, a local newscaster. He runs the marathon in even years and the half in odd years. This year, he was recovering from a car accident where he broke his neck and he still ran the full. Wow. He's so inspiring and a great emcee.

The fundraising arm of St. Jude is called ALSAC. Their CEO, Rick Shadyac, spoke about St. Jude and the important mission they carry out.  This year, Rick ran the half marathon for the first time ever. I'll explain how I know that later (spoiler alert: I got a firsthand account of his run from a family member).   Rick introduced the top fundraisers and fundraising teams. Two of the top fundraisers were young girls--age 9 and 10. Sisters, in fact. Between the two of them, they raised more than $200,000. Phenomenal.

Last year, ALSAC started a new award called the Heroes Among Us award. It goes to someone fundraising who has also done something extraordinary for St. Jude. And, for both years, the person(s) who won had a personal connection.  This year it was no surprise that the Dismuke girls (those motivated young ones mentioned in the previous paragraph) took home the award. The surprise, however, was when their entire family came up and their dad told their family's story.

The Dismuke family raised quite a bit of money for St. Jude last year, when St. Jude was just their local neighborhood jewel. Everyone in Memphis takes great joy and pride in the accomplishments of the hospital. So, it was quite a surprise when, about six months later, their young son Ingram was diagnosed with a brain tumor and started treatment at St. Jude. Craig, Ingram's dad, spoke so vulnerably about what it's like to hear your child has cancer. The whole family stood boldly and professed their love and dedication to St. Jude. And sweet, darling little Ingram (who is a firecracker!!) spoke into the mic and said, "I had a tumor in my bwain. It's gone. I don't wike it."  Then he said his signature phrase, "Get your move on!!"  He is so cute. He didn't stop moving the whole time and pretty much ran off the stage, making friends around the room as he went.  I have since fallen in love with their blog. You can read more about their darling family and how the Lord is working in their lives in the midst of tough stuff on their blog.

Pete, on the elevator back to the room. He was trying to convince passersby his banana was a telephone.

8:30 p.m. Bedtime

We left the dinner with full hearts and bellies and headed out to our hotel. We laid out all clothes, pinned on race numbers, and crossed every t and dotted every i for race day (and yes, I realized their is neither a "t" nor an 'i" in race day.  E and I grabbed a glass of wine and then crashed.  I would like to say I slept really well. But, not so much.

5:00 a.m. Wake Up

My alarm was set for 6 a.m. but I was up all night, back and forth. At 5 a.m. I grabbed a banana and from 5-6 I had the best sleep of the night. Figures:). At 6:00 I was up for good and both our rooms were rocking and rolling. The toaster was poppin, the coffee was brewing, and we were layering and unlayering over and over again.

We woke up to the news that it was, in fact, still predicted to be warm. In fact it was about 55 before we even left the hotel.  So, on December 1, we ran in shorts and tank tops. We made our way down to check in our gear and really split into our corrals before we had a chance to even say goodbye or good luck.

E and I always have the strategy to go one corral ahead of our time plan and go to the very back. It makes it roomier and less stress.  That was our plan this time as well. We lined up and waited.

8:12 a.m. Our Corral is Officially "On The Move"

The race took more than 4 hours but I don't have a whole lot to say about it. It was, in some ways easier than I anticipated and in other ways, it was harder.  Some favorite signs:

--a picture of McKayla Maroney that said, "McKayla Maroney is not impressed with your running but I am"
--"Run like a Cullen"
--"Any idiot can run but it takes a special idiot to run 26.2"

Then there were lots of sad and inspirational sights.
--The guy next to us had a bib on his back that said, "Running in memory of my son."
--At mile 12 two men embraced in tears and it was clear this race was very, very personal to them.
--Smiling, baldies at St. Jude and Target House. A few waved at me and in the 24th mile as we passed by the St. Jude gates for the 2nd time. I pointed and said, " we're running for you guys."  It was definitely a moment for both of us.
--So many people out and smiling, cheering us on, thanking us for running.

Some other highlights
--My mom ran several miles next to ALSAC (St. Jude's fundraising arm) CEO Rick Shadyac. They shared conversation and parted ways but it was fun for her (and for me!).
--My HUSBAND! He stayed right next to me for every. single. mile. Even when it wasn't comfortable to go at my pace. He's amazing. So, so amazing.
--Running through the gates of St. Jude, especially having been there the day before.
--Iced towels. People, when you are running that much, 72 degree weather might as well be 100. It was so hot!! But they had ice cold towels at 4 different spots and they made all the difference

Finishers! Before the exhaustion set in.

12:30 (ish) Crossing the Finish

While I walked a lot (and I mean a lot) in the last 5-6 miles, I am so, so proud to say I finished. I held hands with my darling man friend and we crossed together. Our team trickled in one by one. Let me say, when you have just run for more than 4 hours, wearing a heavy medal around your neck is easier said than done.

I tried to grab some food but got a little woozy. It took a while before I finally felt better and, at that point, the massages were closed. Bummer! But, we were so proud of a strong finish it didn't matter. Mizzou Maniacs headed back to the hotel, showered, rested and hit up the downtown sights.

Celebratory Toast with Caitlin at Rendezvous

5:00 Dinner Out on the Town

We have a Mizzou Maniacs tradition of heading to Rendezvous. Best ribs ever!! While I wasn't too keen on eating when we finished, by six I was ready to try some food. And by some, I mean a bunch of nachos and a full order of ribs. Delicious!

View of the famous Peabody Hotel from the Rendezvous Alley

Every other year we've gone straight home so this year we enjoyed our overnight stay. We headed down Beale, enjoyed a drink and took some fun pics. And by 8:30, it was once again lights out for our team. I mean, we did run quite a bit!

In the middle of Beale Street

6:00 a.m. Up Again

As it turns out, when my body is in discomfort, I don't sleep. If I ever get pregnant, I am sure this will be an issue. It is also an issue in marathon running. I pretty much didn't sleep. So that makes three nights in a row. We woke up and I was officially STARVING. Days later, I am still starving all the time. Eh, I am going to do what I want for a week. Then, I'll start worrying about eating habits. I digress.

Back to Sunday morning. After live streaming The Crossing's service for a lil while, we headed to The Blue Plate Cafe for breakfast. Since Dad works at a church and I work at a church, we rarely do Sunday morning breakfasts. This was a huge treat. I don't know if y'all have been to the Blue Plate but if you are in Memphis, please go. Please. For $9, I had biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict, and three giant pancakes. Told you I was starving. OK, I didn't eat it all. But still. So good.

Blue Plate Menu

We zoomed on home from breakfast and concluded our trip.

I am telling you this trip was one of my favorite family outings.  Of course, all we needed was Marky.  But for the rest of us, it was a great trip. I am so emotional just thinking about it. I can't wait to support St. Jude more. I can't wait to run for them again. My heart is for children and St. Jude is all about em.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me in the past six months. You've listened to me as I've dealt with this. You've heard me whine about injury and difficulty. You've donated to St. Jude. You love me and you love kiddos. Thank you thank you thank you.  And if running for St. Jude sounds like something you want to do, we could use more team members! Registration opens in May and it closes quickly. You won't regret it.

I know many of you are thoroughly exhausted of hearing about all this.  You've got a few months until I start fundraising for December 7, 2013.  Enjoy em:).

Four Years of St. Jude race medals. Can't wait to make it five!

**Update** I forgot to give you all the final total!! Our team raised $6,585.32!! Praise God! What a blessing to be a part of such a neat cause.

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