St Jude Marathon 2015
“I thank thee not for opening the gates of heaven and letting me in, but for opening the gates of hell and letting me out.”–anonymous
About 5 years ago, I was smack dab in the middle of a self-induced crisis. Drugs and alcohol ruled my life, and I was left hopeless in a suicidal state of depression. There was no getting out of this one, and the only thing that I knew for certain was that things were NOT going to get better. Like many of us, I believe myself to be pretty clever and wish to do things my way, right up until my ox gets stuck in the ditch and I’m left flailing my arms, asking God for help (while also blaming him, and pitifully crying, “why me, why me?”…whatever). Being in this most uncomfortable situation, I did the only thing I knew to do; I made a deal with God. I said, “get me out of this sh*t and I will be a regular saint. You have never seen a guy who will behave and be as helpful as I will. Do this one favor, and I’ll never ask you for nothin else ever again.” Well, low and behold, he got me outta that jam, and provided me with the greatest life I could ever ask for. I mean there is truly not an area in my life where I don’t feel blessed. I honestly feel like I have swiped a sirloin off the devil’s plate and left him paying the bill. With all that being said, as far as my end of the deal? Well, I have done virtually none of what I promised. I have changed a few things, and strived to be better in a couple of areas (most of them with a selfish motive), but as far as REALLY holding up my end of the deal…..fart sound. But there is this dude, this fella named Danny Thomas. Ole Danny’s life had seemingly gone down the sh*tter back in the late 1940’s early 50’s, and he gave a most similar request to God as I (albeit probably with fewer expletives) and I’m sure less drama. What he said was this:
“Show me my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.”– Danny Thomas
A shrine? Really? Like, define shrine. IF I said shrine, and IF I followed through with my end (which would be highly unlikely), it would be like a couple of rocks, a framed picture, and maybe a candle or something. I’m not real sure what it would look like, but I can promise you this….it wouldn’t be what St. Jude is today. I mean, the balls on this guy. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that you don’t just decide to build a “shrine”, make a few phone calls to a couple of friends, have a couple cocktails with some out-of-towners, pull a few permits, and wake up to 2.5million square feet worth of miracle making, life saving facilities. You gotta endure more than your fair share of door slams, hang ups, ridicule, laughter, and disapproving head shakes, all of which were clearly overcome by what I believe where three essential ingredients 1. Perseverance 2. Fortitude 3. An extreme lack of ****’s given.
This weekend, December 5 2015, my family and about 20,000 of my closest friends were the benefactors of everything that is RIGHT with the city of Memphis, while aiding in the fight against something very wrong and sad. The St. Jude marathon weekend will go down as one of my most memorable weekends for a multitude of reasons. There was so much love, emotion, and giving, combined with so much co-ordination, hard work, and patience that it exposed Memphis to be the great city that I believe it to be.
Upon arriving at the Convention Center on Friday night for packet pick-up, it was clear that this thing was HUGE. People were everywhere trying to get their bibs, answer questions, and get directions. Seeing as how I don’t ever have any answers, know where I am located, nor where I am supposed to be, it was Beefcake’s worst nightmare. Upon packet pick up I was informed that there had been a mistake and St. Jude had not reserved the room for my family and I. The volunteers jumped on this IMMEDIATELY, and were as patient, kind, and apologetic as anyone could have been. With as much chaos going on, it would have been very easy for them to brush me aside (and honestly, I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had), but they were quick to action. They continuously thanked me for my patience, and I informed them that I had a comfortable bed about 30minutes away, and this was not a real “problem”. St Jude booked us a room at the Westin and even moved my mom into a room over there, as she was originally paying for a room at the Sheraton, so she could watch over the children (which she did, magnificently!! THANKS YA-YA). We got some food and some sleep, and we were all smiles Saturday morning.
At 7am we met up with Team Full Motion and our crew from Olive Branch CrossFit, which ALWAYS makes for a good time. There is not anyone in that group who takes themselves too seriously and we are always lovingly picking at one another, with no one being the victim for too long…but no one is safe either. I’m lucky to know such kind and playful souls.
With 8am fast approaching, we disperse and start moving towards our appropriate “stalls” at the starting line. With 20,000 people, they have to stagger the start with each person starting in a “stall” based on their expected pace during the race to avoid people getting trampled. I saw so many people that I knew, both running and supporting, that it made the start exciting. I had a few moments to pause and take it all in, and I did not waste the opportunity. I have a beautiful, loving wife, healthy children, all of my faculties are somewhat in tact, and a shirt that is so tight that my tits looked like a loaded pastry bag with enough icing to decorate a royal wedding cake, and my love handles were jammed in so tight that it looked like I had stolen Cam Newton’s rib pads. I coulda taken a bullet to the side and never known. I looked like I was sponsored by Spanx. I was the original Tits McGhee ***side note: Regardless of time or venue, my dad will absolutely crumble with laughter if ever I refer to myself or anyone else as this name. I once called him Tits McGhee in his living room and I swear to God I thought he was going to die from hysterics. I never miss the opportunity. End side note*** On the loudspeakers they were playing “Born to Run” and it was hard not to feel the adrenaline. I’m not the world’s biggest Springsteen fan, but my brother and his friends taught me that you don’t have to like him, but you better damn well respect him, and if given the opportunity, you need to feel him in his music. I was feeling it. My stall approached the starting line, and we were off. I immediately felt like sh*t, but was happy to be part of the event. There was action EVERYWHERE! People with signs and noise makers, percussion lines and bands, and aid stations…it was nuts. I kept waiting to loosen up and get the “feel goods”, but they just weren’t coming. I passed a percussion group of probably 20kids, and they were BAD A*S! It was the best I would feel all day (that was at like mile 6, and the adrenaline lasted like 4minutes…it was the other 6.5 hours I had to worry about). There was always a familiar face, or distraction to take away from the misery, and my attitude was always good. There was no part of me that ever felt like quitting, but there was no part of me that felt like running either. I came across a child whose sign read, “I did 4 weeks of chemo, you can do this” and another sign that said, “SMILE….Jake always did” and I began to cry. That’s some pretty powerful perspective. About mile 10 I was already taking walk breaks, and was steady mixing in walking by the halfway point. My only concern was meeting the cutoff, aside from the possibility of DNF’ing, I was enjoying the day.
At about mile 14, Amanda came running past, and I flagged her down and we checked in on each other. I usually start quite a bit faster than her, and then her consistency takes me over at the end as I run outta gas. However, we weren’t anywhere close to the end, and I could feel that she sensed my struggle. Either way, she knew I would keep waddling, and worst case grab a random stranger and get to know everything about them along the way. We were running through a pretty lonely area in a pretty bad part of town, and I couldn’t help to think about how nice it would be if a thug attacked me, stuck a knife into my well insulated love handle, and I would be relieved from the race with a good story, and even better excuse. Being as heavily “spankd” as I was, I wondered if maybe I had been shanked and just didn’t know it. Either way, I had to keep moving.
After the halfway point, things start to slow down. The fanfare is dead, and there is not much to look at. However, if I could make it through the down stretch, then I would reach the 19.6 mark. 19.6 was were they would pull you from the course if you were not there by 1:15pm. After that, assuming they did not take down the timing equipment, I would at least finish. “This is some bulls*it”, I told myself as I gimped on down the way. The road was pounding on my feet, hips, and knees. I could not see why anyone would prefer this over a trail, but I guess 240lbs is not the ideal weight to be running on anything, let alone pavement. That’s when I hit a pivotal moment in the race. The thought crossed my mind, “I really need to lose some weight. I need to get focused and shed about 25lbs.” After I was done with this illogical garbage, I was left hit with the lightning bolt. It was the idea that would carry me through the next 7 miles. I thought, ” I’m gonna go to Kooky Canuck’s, eat that bigass cheeseburger, and get my picture on the wall…that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.” I walked, I waddled, I walked some more, and upon entering the AutoZone Park at the finish line, I heard the all too familiar bellowing laugh of Brian Williams who was standing on the overhead walkway. Now I’m a sensitive guy, and being laughed at generally hurts my feelings, however Brian was far from laughing AT me. Being that Brian knows better than anyone the times that I should be finishing different races at different distances, he knew that I had absolutely fallen apart during this race. He also knows just EXACTLY what this feels like. On top of this, I think that the all too familiar thoughts of my bitchin, cussing, and moaning just had Brian in stitches. I had finished. It was over. Ultimately, Kooky Canuck’s would strategically keep me from the 4lb burger, as they knew it would result in a total loss for them (they tried to stall Beefcake, knowing I couldn’t wait the one hour prep time). With both Jackson Ralls, and my son Grayson having absolute confidence me, I was about to be the LeBron James of burgers. It was a wise move by the management of Kooky Canuck’s.
All the crappy running aside, it was a most excellent weekend. I had a great time with my family and with my friends. The event was everything and a WHOLE lot more than I had visualized. I will say this, Memphis has its share of problems, nobody will deny this. There are things that need to be addressed and changes that need to be made. That being said, I believe it is a great city with great people. Outside of supporters and volunteers, I probably watched a hundred people honk or yell something from their vehicle during the course of the race. Everyone who yelled had something encouraging or uplifting to say. The people who knock our city are the ones who sit behind their computer or in front of their TV, bitching and moaning about what is wrong, and have not participated in an event or even witnessed any of the great things going on in this town. I encourage you to get involved in some capacity, with some organization (even if it is as selfishly as I did), and see what a difference it can make on your perspective. I thank each and every one of you that supported St Jude in any way. Any city that comes together and raises over $8million dollars to help sick children has a lot to offer.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related.