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St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend Virtual Experience becomes global celebration of heroism, hope

December 21, 2020

15,000 runners participate in remote race to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Thousands of supporters worldwide collectively took part in the 19th annual St. Jude Memphis Marathon® Weekend Virtual Experience presented by Juice Plus+® on Saturday, Dec. 5, the first time the beloved Memphis event has gone entirely virtual, encouraging participants in communities around the world to take part in support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®.

Of the nearly 15,000 registered participants an astounding 6,600 were first-timers, more than 4,200 were dedicated St. Jude Heroes® and 822 were patient families. Those registered represent all 50 states and Washington, D.C.; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Puerto Rico; and 72 foreign countries.

Named one of the Top 35 running events in the nation, the 2020 St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend had a participant retention rate of 30 percent this year. Event organizers supplemented in-person race day events with a series of relational, interactive and experiential activities in the months and weeks leading up to race day, which encouraged participation and fostered connection from the onset. To retain the authenticity of a race-day experience, St. Jude employed the RTRT.me tracking system to deliver a remote race for participants.

Prior to race day, runners received motivation, running tips and videos sharing the St. Jude mission through patient stories and the ABCs of Cancer, 26 mile markers incorporating patient art that corresponded to each letter of the alphabet and provided a moment of reflection about the emotional journey for each extraordinary St. Jude patient.

Race week kicked off with a virtual opening ceremony and National Anthem sung by a St. Jude patient and cancer survivor, followed by a daily series of virtual experiences that included a tour of a St. Jude research lab; the reveal of a digital mosaic composed of hundreds of participant images; and a virtual No More Cancer Rally. An official pace car sponsored by Landers Auto Group, always a thrilling moment for participants, was revealed and turned into a digital and searchable art installation featuring the of names of more than 2,000 St. Jude Heroes.

The Virtual Event Guide sponsored by Shaw Floors provided more than virtual engagement. It included a Virtual Experience Toolkit with printable cheer posters, start and finish lines and finish line tape, which made it possible for runners to have a personalized, fun, memorable and safe race-day experience.

Participants from Memphis, Dallas, Seattle and even places as far away as Switzerland shared photos and videos of their Marathon experience using #StJudeHeroes and #RunForStJude. While there was no run through the St. Jude campus this year, St. Jude Heroes were provided with an augmented reality feature that displayed familiar St. Jude sights such as art created by teen patients and iconic little red wagons, the preferred transportation for young patients.

Many participants who completed their race on Dec. 5 held their own finish line celebrations by proudly displaying their bibs, race shirts and finisher medals. Longtime Marathon emcee Dave Ragsdale kept up his hosting duties in the virtual format, every hour on the hour sharing kudos to the finishers and calling out several by name.

Prior to race day, committed St. Jude Heroes received the esteemed Hero Among Us recognition, usually given to an individual who exemplifies the St. Jude spirit. This year it was shared among 2,600 runners who, in an unprecedented year, stayed committed to fundraising for the patient families at St. Jude, who never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

“The St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is among my favorite events of the entire year, from the electrifying opening ceremony to the participants from across the world running and walking through the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus, to the emotional finish line celebrations with patients, families, St. Jude Heroes and thousands of supporters,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “While this year had to be virtual to keep everyone safe, I am overwhelmed with gratitude by the thousands of St. Jude supporters worldwide who continued supporting us from a distance, running all across the globe, from the military base in Kuwait to the St. Jude Hero running in the Swiss Alps to our Heroes running in Memphis and other places across America. Their tenacity and commitment, like that seen in St. Jude doctors, nurses, researchers and patient families, demonstrates once again that together, anything is possible.”

It’s not too late to support a friend, family member or St. Jude Hero who took part the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend Virtual Experience – donations can still be made through Jan. 4 at stjude.org/marathondonate.

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About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Its purpose is clear: Finding cures. Saving children.® It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude won’t stop until no child dies from cancer. St. Jude freely shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. Join the St. Jude mission by visiting stjude.org, liking St. Jude on Facebook, following St. Jude on TwitterInstagram and TikTok, and subscribing to its YouTube channel.

Media Contact:
Jennifer Godwin
ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
901-295-5596; [email protected]