Spotlight on the Sport: St. Jude Memphis Marathon

Running USA
February 8, 2018


The only race in North America owned and operated by a charity, St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is the hospital’s largest single-day fundraising event


MEMPHIS - While many races around the country were fretting over declining registration numbers this fall and winter, the St. Jude Memphis Marathon was in the enviable position of seeing gains.

The Dec. 2 event saw 25,000 participants, 8,000 of whom raised funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. That fundraising brought in $10.3 million this year. And perhaps more importantly, 30 percent of runners returned after running the race the year before.

"Every year, more and more individuals become connected to the mission of St. Jude through this race weekend and commit to returning annually," said Molly Quinn, Vice President of Fitness & Endurance for ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Quinn oversees the team focused on providing a best-in-class experience for St. Jude Heroes, participants and donors.

That base of community and perhaps a closer connection between the runner/fundraisers, who are called St. Jude Heroes, and the beneficiaries of the hospital's life-saving care is surely a factor in driving St. Jude's success. The runners who connect with the hospitals mission are more likely to return year after year.

"They, help ensure the hospital is able to continue its lifesaving mission," Quinn said of the St. Jude Heroes. And as they run through the campus of the hospital, race participants see the mission come to life firsthand as they are cheered on by St. Jude patients and families.

Read on for more insight from Quinn on what makes the St. Jude Memphis Marathon stand out:


RUSA: What was new and exciting about your Memphis event this year?

Quinn: There were a number of new additions for the 16th annual St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend. One such addition was an exclusive benefit for committed St. Jude Heroes: the St. Jude Heroes wristband. The wristbands – available in gold, silver and bronze – signified the St. Jude Hero’s level of fundraising commitment and provided yet another opportunity for them to be cheered along the course for their fundraising efforts.


This year also featured an exclusive experience for St. Jude patients and their families throughout the weekend. Patient family hospitality areas, displays of patient team t-shirts and more allowed St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend to also serve as a homecoming for many patient families and remind race participants about the reason behind the race. 


While race weekend provides unique experiences for runners and patient families, its key objective is to help raise the vital funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In addition to being the only race in North America owned and operated by a charity, St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is the hospital’s largest single-day fundraising event. Thanks to the dedication of race sponsors, partners, St. Jude Heroes and more, the 2017 event raised a record $10.3 million for the kids of St. Jude.


RUSA: St. Jude has made a strong commitment to running and used the sport as a platform to rally support to your organization. Can you give a little background as to why St. Jude focuses on running to drive its mission?

Quinn: One of the great things about supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the endless pool of possibilities for how one can show their support. Running as a St. Jude Hero is one of the countless ways to get involved. Whether someone is able to give back by volunteering, donating blood, hosting fundraising events or other means, there are countless ways for people of all backgrounds to rally behind the hospital’s mission.


St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is a prime example of this. Although the full marathon, half marathon and 10K are top-of-mind for many when thinking about race weekend, the event’s 5K and kids marathon provide an opportunity for people of all ages and fitness levels to get involved.


RUSA: How many running events does St. Jude put on throughout the year and how many would you say St. Jude is involved with from a main charity fundraising partner?

Quinn: There are numerous ways individuals can get involved with St. Jude through fitness initiatives. Beyond St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer is held annually in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. The growing family friendly event takes place in more than 65 cities nationwide.


St. Jude is honored to be the featured national charity for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. Participants can run for free by registering as a committed St. Jude fundraiser for most of the Rock ‘n’ Roll events in the U.S..


Participating as a St. Jude Hero also provides entry into some of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, such as the Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, New York City Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon and more. Other signature races include the Marine Corps Marathon, Los Angeles Marathon, Disney Marathons and more.

St. Jude Heroes interested in cycling can also get involved by participating in Ride for a Reason Benefitting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Life Time Foundation, which is open to Life Time members and non-members.


RUSA: What are some of the main ways St. Jude engages runners and inspires them throughout a training and racing cycle?

Quinn: Registering in a race as a St. Jude Hero means an online training program, race-day extras — from a St. Jude singlet to hotel accommodations, depending on event and fundraising commitment — and entry into the most exclusive races in the world. More importantly, it means helping St. Jude kids who might be too sick to run today, but who could one day be running alongside those who helped save their life.


Since St. Jude Heroes come from across the country, and some across the globe, to participate, we regularly distribute multi-channel communications, which share race updates, encouraging patient stories, fundraising ideas, experiences from other St. Jude Heroes, fitness advice from National Training Coach Kevin Leathers and more. Many cities also host regular training runs for St. Jude Heroes, connecting them with other Heroes to share advice, accountability and motivation. By providing this variety of support, the national St. Jude Heroes program can seem like a local runners club for many Heroes.


RUSA: Can you give our readers a brief history of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital?

Quinn: Unsure of his life’s direction, a young Danny Thomas sought guidance from St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes. If the saint would point to the path he should take, Danny vowed to build a shrine in his name. Success followed Danny’s plea and soon after, the legendary entertainer set about fulfilling his vow to St. Jude. The result was 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. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent when the hospital opened in 1962 to more than 80 percent today. In acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) specifically, St. Jude has increased the survival rates from 4 percent before opening in 1962 to 94 percent today.


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. Learn more by visiting

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