Start Her Running took a group of approximately 50 students to run in the St. Jude half marathon and 10K in Memphis, Tennessee, on Dec. 4.

“We are all going to Memphis to run what for most of them is their very first race,” senior Layne Pace Turley said.

Turley, the founder of Start Her Running, organized weekly group runs and designed training plans based on the distance each runner was preparing to run.

“Group runs were my favorite part of the training process,” senior Nora Waller said. “It was sweet to get the opportunity to run with each other and just be in fellowship while running.

Not to mention, it was a great form of accountability. It was so much easier to get up and run knowing I wasn’t the only one doing it.”

Turley began the 12-week training program in September with the goal of preparing each runner for the St. Jude race at the end of the semester.

“I see this as the goal of the semester,” Turley said. “I think running your first major distance race is huge, and I think the feeling these athletes [got] to experience [last] weekend will be what propels them to keep running in the future. So I would say it is a stepping stone in that I’m trying to introduce running as a tool rather than an exercise.”

The race is the largest single-day fundraising event for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude is dedicated to furthering the treatment of childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases, according to its mission statement.

“The St. Jude race also supports a great cause,” Waller said. “So often I take for granted my ability to get up and move my body. Running this race is supporting those who don’t get that luxury, and what an honor that is.”

Junior Olivia Scott trained with Start Her Running but instead ran the full 26.2-mile marathon at the St. Jude race.

“It is my first marathon and won’t be my last, so I am just trying to get this one under my belt,” Scott said. “The preparation has been fun, which is what truly matters. I have most certainly seen God throughout my training and through the relationships I have built and how He has provided me this ability to run.”

Turley created Start Her Running in April 2020. The program evolved from mostly training individual athletes in long-distance running to focusing on group training in conjunction with HU HEAL.

“I started doing individual training with athletes, and I still do some, but after this experience, I really want to shift to group training,” Turley said. “It is just so much more powerful to be able to do something with another person, and it’s really beautiful to see the growth in people and just to walk through that journey alongside them and knowing they have supporters around them.”