The first weekend in December is always St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend here. It's a big deal! The city shuts down most of Midtown and downtown for the marathon route, and everyone basically has three options: 1) run the race, 2) come out and cheer on the runners, or 3) plan to stay home all day because there's no way you're going to be able to navigate through the city without hitting a race course roadblock. I always go with option #1!
This fundraiser raises so much money for St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, which provides free medical care for children with catastrophic diseases, particularly leukemia and other cancers. This year, however, the race was forced to go virtual, thanks to the pandemic. But that didn't stop Memphis runners (and runners all over the world!) from signing up.
Every virtual race is a little different, and for this one, you could pick one distance (5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon) and commit to running it anywhere you wanted on race day (December 5). Or you could pick two distances or all four for the 2-Race or 4-Race Challenge. If you opted to do that, you committed to running the longest distance on Dec. 5 and the others any day you wanted leading up to race day. I signed up for the 10K and half-marathon and opted to do them back-to-back to make it a real challenge. I ran my 10K on Friday morning before work!
Y'all, I shaved about a minute off my 10K PR (personal record)! St. Jude provided an app for official time tracking, and it included the actual race course for those who wanted to try and follow it. You could run the race anywhere, but I tried to stay on the real course downtown. Just for fun! I felt strong and fast, and my PR came pretty easily. I've been working on my speed all year!
After my run, I stopped my LuLu's (which is also downtown) for my usual Friday morning treat. I got the Brekky Sandwich (tofu egg, smoked beets, cashew cheese) on an Everything Bagel and enjoyed it on the drive back to Midtown.
The next day, I was set to run the St. Jude Half-Marathon. I've run many half-marathons but never the day after running a fast 10K, so I had no idea what to expect. I did a little muscle massage on Friday night and made sure to focus on whole foods for recovery. Surprisingly, I wasn't all that sore when I woke up Saturday morning.
I had my usual pre-run breakfast of overnight oats, and then I headed back downtown to run on the half-marathon course. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many other St. Jude runners in their St. Jude Heroes singlets, race bibs, and tech shirts. Everyone was running their own race on their own course, but we all passed each other quite often. Any time I'd see another runner in a St. Jude shirt, I'd smile and wave, and they would too.
A couple of crazy synchronicities happened early on. St. Jude runners who raise money for the hospital are called St. Jude Heroes, and they had a special Heroes car driving around downtown, honking at runners. I had David Bowie's "Heroes" on my playlist, and the line that says "We can be heroes just for one day" was playing in my headphones as the car passed me on Front Street and honked and waved. Crazy! Brought me to tears a little bit.
And then, just a few blocks away, Florida-Georgia Line's "This Is How We Roll" came on my playlist right as I passed the intersection of Florida Street and Georgia Avenue. WHAT?! So weird! Also, y'all, I don't care for country music, but I like that song because Jason DeRulo has a little rap in it, and it's fun. My running music is super cheesy and inspirational AF.
After those two events, I just knew it was going to be a good run. And that was only mile 3! But I was right. I kept a steady and quick pace the whole 13.1 miles, and I ended with a two-minute PR! That's two PRs in two races in two days. I wasn't really trying to beat my previous times in either run, but I was just in a great flow state. That happens sometimes! The runners' high is real.
The coolest thing about doing the 2-Race Challenge is that I got a third medal just for that. And it's big! Look at all this bling.
After my run, I treated myself to a Big Smack (like a vegan Big Mac) from Imagine Vegan Cafe, with cheese fries on the side. I definitely earned it! This has two vegan beef patties, special sauce, pickles, onions, and that double bun action. I rarely order it because it seems so decadent, but I was hangry after my races.