From back to front, Caitlyn Nodine, Sunny Logan and LilyRose Nodine, find themselves in a sea of humanity in the staging area shortly before the start of Saturday's St. Jude Memphis Marathon. The three Caledonia teens adorned their hair with gold pom poms so their moms could pick them out of the field of more than 25,000 runners. Photo by: Courtesy photo
Caledonia teens Caitlyn Nodine and Sunny Logan run their first half-marathon in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Saturday morning. Logan, herself a survivor of childhood cancer, Nodine and Nodine's sister LilyRose raised almost $2,500 for the children's hospital where Logan stayed during her battle with cancer three years ago.
Photo by: Courtesy photo
December 2, 2017 10:09:51 PM
Somewhere in the mass of 25,000 runners who turned out for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Saturday morning, three heads adorned with gold pom poms bobbed along the race route.
The pom poms are an accessory the teen cross-country runners from Caledonia -- 14-year-old Sunny Logan and sisters 16-year-old Caitlyn and 13-year-old LilyRose Nodine -- have been using for some time.
"We started putting pom poms in our hair so our moms could spot us on the course," Caitlyn said. "For this race, we decided to wear gold pom poms for childhood cancer."
Saturday's race is a major fund-raiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and a particularly meaningful run for the three girls, all experienced runners.
Both Caitlyn and LilyRose have been running competitively since they were 10 years old -- but at that age Logan, LilyRose's best friend, was facing a different sort of challenge.
"I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma when I was 10," she said. "I had a biopsy and two days later, I was at St. Jude's."
At 10, Logan was old enough to understand the gravity of her illness as she arrived at the nationally renowned children's hospital four years ago.
"What I remember most was just how scared I was," she said. "I was so nervous and so afraid. But as soon as I got there, all the people there went above and beyond to make you happy and being around other kids with cancer, you just felt like you fit in. It was absolutely amazing. That's why I was so excited to come back and run and support St. Jude's in this race."
Logan spent a year at St. Jude and has been cancer free for about a year. It took her that full year to recover her strength and begin running again, she said.
The marathon raises money through pledges made in the runners' names. The girls' "Team Sunshine" had secured almost $2,500 in pledges by the time the race started Saturday morning.
Although all three girls are experienced runners, Saturday's event -- they ran in the half-marathon -- was a new challenge.
"It's much longer than anything we had ever done before," Logan said. "In our cross-country meets, we run three miles. This is 13.1 miles, so it's something we had never done."
Caitlyn, the most experienced and most accomplished of the three -- she finished ninth in last year's state cross-country meet -- approached Saturday's race much differently than her normal competitions.
For the first time, being out front at the finish line wasn't a priority.
"Our plan was to start together, run together and finish together," she said. "The main goal was just to finish the race. It's not about competition. It's about supporting St. Jude's."
The girls did indeed make it the entire distance, holding hands and smiling broadly as they crossed the finish line in a time of approximately two hours. Their official times will not be posted until this morning.
LilyRose said knowing what St. Jude meant to her best friend made Saturday's race even more exciting.
"We're just like sisters," she said. "And running with her in this race really makes it so much fun. I love it."
Logan said she wasn't especially nervous about running in a much longer race than she had ever experienced before.
"I guess that's something that changed after I had cancer," she said. "I'm more laid-back. I used to blow up when bad things happened. Now, I just roll with it. Whatever happens, I know it will be all right. No matter what it is, I've been through worse things. So I wasn't nervous about this race.
"I was just excited," she said.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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