Rhonda S. Perry
Running With Purpose
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.
Why Do I Run? I Run For Raymond.
I began running in February of 2014, while my husband, Marcus, was training for his first half marathon in Pittsburg, Pa. His efforts motivated me, so I downloaded the ”Couch to 5K” app and got started.
I was bit by the running bug when we picked up his bib and bag of goodies for the Pittsburg race. The atmosphere was electric when I left Marcus in his assigned corral to wait for the race to begin. With my course map in hand, I proceeded to find my first location to cheer him on. When I saw Marcus running, I was so proud of him; he was running his first half marathon. Given the size of this event, I was unable to see Marcus cross the finish line in person, but his verbal account along with the photo sealed it for me; I was going to be a part of crossing future finish lines with him.
I continued my training and before long I was able to run a 5K without stopping. Shortly thereafter, my Dad’s (Raymond Dewayne Summers, Sgt. E7, Vietnam 65-66) health began to decline due to lung cancer, so I made as many trips home as possible so I could spend time with him. While visiting, running in Okeena Park became part of our daily routine. My dad would take his spot on the bench in the shade, and I would take off running with music playing in my ears. When I got close to him, I would silence the music so I could hear his cheers of “Go Girl Go.” My Dad had coined this phrase for me earlier, but hearing it when I ran past him made it very special for me.