'I just wouldn't give up.' A half-marathoner's tribute to a late friend

Kate Thompson, originally from Doylestown and currently a senior at Penn State University, completed the full 13.1-mile half-marathon on crutches.

The motivation to prepare for and run a half-marathon is not to be overlooked or taken for granted. But at an event like today’s, the individual sacrifices can get lost in the crowd—literally.

Meet Kate Thompson, originally from Doylestown and currently a senior at Penn State University. For some time, Kate had planned to run today’s Philadelphia Half-Marathon. But late last month, those plans appeared to be undone. Kate was injured running in the club cross-country championships at Penn State.

It wasn’t until she remembered her friend, Justin Burns, that Kate knew she had a greater reason for doing this race.

“Justin passed away from cancer a few years ago,”Kate said, “so I decided to run the race in his honor. I asked people to donate a dollar to THON for every mile I could complete.”

THON, or the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, is an annual event held to raise funds to combat pediatric cancer. The largest student-run philanthropy in the world, THON raised over $12 million in 2013 alone.

But the story doesn’t end there. Kate injury’s was too severe to run the Half-Marathon and she knew it.

She did the race anyway. On crutches.

That’s right—for 13.1 miles, Kate Thompson hobbled along the streets of Philadelphia in a unique, heartwarming tribute to a friend taken too soon.

Maybe ‘hobbled’ doesn’t do her justice. Kate finished the half-marathon in three hours, 54 minutes—a pace of about 18 minutes per mile. Again—this can’t be stressed enough—she was on crutches the entire way.

Kate says much like her friend Justin, she never wanted to give up. “When I woke up this morning, I had no idea how far I’d actually make it,” she admitted.

It’s not known yet how much money Kate raised for THON. Whatever the amount, she was able to do more than she’d ever imagined.

“I guess honestly, I didn’t think I’d be able to make it, and I’d stop if it got to be too much,” she shared. “But along the way, I met a lot of amazing people who inspired me to keep going.”

They inspired her? It’s safe to say the feeling was mutual.  

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