PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Runners were sent off in style for the 41st annual St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run.

Cheers accompanied a fleet of 30 motorhomes, vans and trucks as they drove off from Bob Lindsey Rentals in Peoria. They will drive for seven hours to Memphis, Tennessee, approximately 465 miles.

“There’s so many volunteers, donors, and sponsors who have made this possible,” said Mollie Shepherdson, area managing director for ALSAC St. Jude Research Hospital in Peoria.

The 150 runners will relay run their way back to Peoria from Wednesday through Saturday.

“The dedication… These people raise so much money, they give up time with their family and work to run from Memphis, Tennessee to Peoria, Illinois… 465 miles in the August heat,” said Shepherdson.

It’s Doug Valentine’s 10th year participating in the run. He lost his sister to cancer in 2004.

“St. Jude and Central Illinois are just one in the same,” he said.

Valentine said the motorhomes can get cramped, but it’s a rewarding experience.

“It definitely gets a little smelly and there’s a real lack of sleep. But you do come out a lot closer to the people you’re in that RV with for four days solid,” he said.

He said it’s like being part of a big St. Jude family that brings him back year after year.

“I have a lot of close friends that I’ve made over the last 10 years. I certainly knew a few people before the run, but we keep in touch all year long. Its really important. They know my family, I know theirs, so we really do feel like extended family,” he said.

Mike McCoy, co-founder of St. Jude Runs, said it’s all about the kids. Each runner has to raise at least $3,000 to participate.

“This is a fundraising event, it’s not a running event. All these people worked hard to raise a lot of money to help kids with cancer,” he said.

There are also 34 satellite runs with starting points in between Memphis and Peoria.

Nearly 2,000 runners will race across the bridge into Peoria on August 6.

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