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Runners prepare for 20th Annual St. Jude Marathon

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 5:36 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tens of thousands of runners will lace up their shoes to run for the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Saturday.

Friday, runners from 72 countries and all 50 states made their way to the Renasant Convention Center in preparation for the big day.

“We do it year-round and we did it again this year,” said Ronnie Schwartz from Alexandria, Louisiana.

Schwartz was St. Jude Hero of the year in 2020 and is close to meeting his goal of raising $1 million for the hospital.

“I think no child should ever have to die of cancer and whatever it takes to do that, I do it and it’s important to me and I’ll continue to do it,” Schwartz said.

This year marks the 20th St. Jude Marathon.

Runners were excited to be back after last year’s marathon was virtual because of the pandemic.

“It feels amazing, I can’t even believe we’re here,” said Erica Kirkes from Indiana.

Rick Shadyac, President of ALSAC says this year’s race will look different in order to keep everyone safe.

“We have strict health and safety protocols in place. We’re requiring our participants either be vaccinated or have a negative COVID test, that’s critically important,” Shadyac said.

The marathon starts on B.B. King Boulevard between Beale Street and FedEx Forum, goes through downtown Memphis and ends at AutoZone Park.

One group of friends says their favorite part of the race is running through the hospital.

“It just touches your heart to see that they thank you and yet they’ve gone through all this, and they’re thanking us? They’re the heroes not us,” says Jean Miller from Indiana.

Others are running for the first time like 13-year-old Jillian Smith from Atlanta.

“I’ve always wanted to be an oncologist and my Mitzvah project was to come here and run for St. Jude and I’m running the 5k tomorrow and I’m so excited,” Smith said.

Along with safety at top of mind, runners say they’re happy to be back and ready to hit the pavement for a good cause.

“I always tell my runners, it’s not about winning, it’s about finishing and that’s what we’re here for,” Schwartz said.

For more information about the race route and closures, click here.

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