MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Thousands of runners, volunteers, and supporters are preparing for this weekend's St. Jude Marathon in downtown Memphis.
The race begins at 8:00 a.m. Saturday, December 4, 2021.
In addition to 17,000 runners in the city, 3,000 will run virtually. According to St. Jude, 4,000 volunteers help organize and run the event.
Supporters and cheering fans also plan to line the racecourse.
One of those groups is the Memphis Ukulele Flash Mob. It's a group of about 70 men and women from Memphis who play ukuleles at different events. It will be the sixth year they are playing along the race route.
"I think the first year; there were just ten of us. It was raining, and it was cold, but we stuck through the whole thing, and it was the most rewarding experience we ever had," said Vicki Campbell.
Campbell said the group always plays the same song.
"We always play You Are My Sunshine over and over. Maybe 500 times or more," said Campbell. "It gets tiring for us, but if you think about it, they only get to hear it once. We have to play something quick for them. It is so fun to watch their face as they run by us."
She added, "we are usually dressed up in hats and crazy outfits, and they break out in laughter, and we feel like we help them and encourage them, and that's our goal."
Further down the marathon course, a different kind of cheering occurs. The Memphis Hash House Harriers is a running club. The group offers cheers and beers to runners going the distance.
"It is just something to make them laugh. It is funny to say, 'hey, I ran a marathon and had beer during it.' It is just fun for everyone," said Simon Hill, Memphis Hash House Harriers spokesperson.
Hill said the group has cheered on the runners since the marathon's inception, and they have three kegs ready for this year's race.
"They are small cups of beer. Some people will have one or two. Some people will request more than that. Some people request a keg stand in the middle of the race. It is always fun and always a good time," said Hill.
Because the group is a running club, Hill said they also keep supplies runners might need.
Last year due to the pandemic, the race was virtual. However, the groups said they are ready for the cheering to resume.
"We are ready. We are going to be back out there," said Campbell.
Local schools and churches have registered cheer groups for the event. Memphis businesses such as Evolve Bank, Autozone, Drums Unlimited, and Exercise Unlimited also have cheer stations along the route. Cheer stations are also located at Grecian Gourmet Taverna and 409 South Main.
And remember, you don't have to be part of an organized cheer group to go cheer the runners on.