By Burchie Ellinger
A half-marathon that started in Memphis eventually ended more than 80 miles away in Oxford for Ann McQueen Whatley. When she didn’t get to cross the finish line that day, her friends quickly came to the rescue.
On Dec. 1, Whatley, a sophomore at Ole Miss, began the St. Jude half-marathon with a group of her friends early that morning. It was a goal she trained for and planned to accomplish.
“I was excited but definitely nervous,” she said. “I was running for a while and made it to mile 11. However, I was not feeling good at all, and that’s when I passed out.”
Whatley passed out on the hot Memphis asphalt with hundreds of other runners surrounding her. A stranger running next to her watched her faint and called an ambulance, which took her to the St. Jude medical tent. She fainted due to dehydration and was very disappointed that she didn’t finish the race, she said.
Wrennie Clark, one of Whatley’s roommates, was also running the race that day.
“When I finally found her she looked very confused and scared,” she said. “She had an IV hooked up to her and they were getting ready to take her blood pressure which ended up being very low.”
Three days after the race, Whatley thought she was going on a relaxing walk with her roommates, Avery Sadler, Wrennie Clark and Channell Cole, but little did she know she was about to finish her half marathon in Oxford. Her roommates and friends got together while Whatley was in the medical tent and hatched a plan to make sure that she would accomplish her goal of finishing the race.
As the roommates set out for the walk in their neighborhood a few days after the race, a few of Whatley’s friends began to set up the end of the race at the Cottages at Hooper Hollow. A few friends posted signs for mile 12 and 13, a couple of other friends grabbed water cups to extend to her, and a few others created a finish line with a ribbon outside her house. The rest of the group sat around with signs and confetti cannons waiting for her to run.
“We waited for everyone to give us the “go” that they were set up for us and then we turned around,” Cole said. “She saw the signs for mile 12 and we asked her if she wanted to finish the race together in Oxford. Avery and Wrennie started running, so she followed and rounded the corner and saw all of her friends.”
She was met with smiling faces, painted signs and lots of confetti, encouraging her to finish the race she started.
“When I saw all of my friends I was completely overwhelmed,” Whatley said. “I was so shocked and taken aback and immediately flooded with tears. To have all my friends show me that they care about me and support me in that way is such an amazing feeling. I was in awe and feel extremely grateful.”
She ran through the finish line and was awarded a medal from the actual half marathon.
“It means the world to me that my roommates care so much about me to turn something so negative and unfinished into something so positive,” Whatley said. “I am so incredibly blessed to have such wonderful friends who help me, not only finish half-marathons but encourage me and lift me up throughout all aspects of life.”