On Friday, December 4, my husband, Marcus, and I traveled from Dallas to Memphis for my first marathon. We arrived at the Cook Convention Center and met up with family to check-in prior and enjoy the benefits of the expo. While standing in line, workers rang cow bells and cheered. I felt proud when they announced that I had raised $9,000 for St. Jude. I was handed bib number 782 with GoGirlGo printed on it, and in less than 24 hours, the race would be under way.

Saturday morning was cold, but the sun was shining. With our family, Marcus and I made our way to the start line. The music was loud and my excitement grew. At 8:00 am the race began and corrals were released at 2-minute intervals. We were sent off by the cheers of our family and others lining the streets in support of the St. Jude Marathon.

It was time to put all of my effort and training (70 running days and 356 miles) to the test and enjoy the experience of running a marathon. Running for a purpose took on a new meaning for me when the route took us through the St. Jude campus and children lined the route and cheered us on. One couple came prepared with silver beads and as they passed each child, they hung a strand around their neck. It was an emotional experience I will not forget.

At mile marker 11, Marcus went to the left to finish the half marathon and I went right to finish the marathon. As I turned the corner to proceed down Cleveland Street, I knew I was doing something bigger than me because I was RUNNING 4 RAYMOND. I was not alone -my family madethe extra effort to track my progress and found locations they could see and cheer me on. While my nephew, Christian, scared me a couple of time when he magically appeared along the course, I was thankful for his effort to run alongside me for encouragement. When I passed mile marker 16, I knew I was entering unchartered territory given my longest training run was 16 miles; but I was keeping pace and to my surprise felt good. At mile marker 21, Christian commented that my pace was slowing, and I had to admit I was starting to experience some pain. But pain was part of the process, and I would be okay. Mile 25 took almost 20 minutes to complete. I walked more than I ran, but I kept moving. When I saw mile marker 26, I said, “I have been looking for you all day.” As I rounded the corner to enter the finish line, my family greeted me with cheers of GoGirlGo, which I returned by giving them the “pump it up” signal to let them know I was okay. When I crossed the finish line and received my finisher medal, I was overcome with emotion and thankful Marcus was there to meet me. My legs were screaming. However, I accomplished what I had set out to do seven months earlier in that I had completed my first marathon. When we finally caught up with our family and friends, it was a wonderful celebration with lots of hugs and tears of joy. While crossing the finish line after running 26.2 miles was a personal accomplishment, it was made possible because of all of their love and support.

As I reflect, I am grateful I made the decision not only to run my first marathon but also to make it memorable. It was memorable because it was a team effort rather than an individual effort. Yes, I spent the time on the pavement, but I would not have been able to achieve the fundraising results without the support of my family, especially my mom and sisters. In addition, the decision allowed me to work through the first year following the loss of my father. There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel the sting of his loss, but running provides a way to honor and remember him. Lots of good came of my efforts, and the 2015 St. Jude Marathon weekend provides memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

While this was my first marathon, it will not be my last.

Why do I run? I RUN 4 RAYMOND.