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South Jordan Journal

Family tradition: South Jordan mother, four children all St. George Marathon finishers

Feb 07, 2022 02:50PM ● By Julie Slama

Ten-year-old Rush Simmons, a Monte Vista fourth-grade student, became the fourth and last of Anne Simmons’ children to complete running the St. George Marathon. (Photo courtesy of the Simmons family)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In 1982, when 9-year-old Anne Simmons ran the St. George Marathon, little did she know she was starting a family tradition.

“I never dreamed that it would turn into every single one of my kids wanting to be part of that experience,” she said.

This past fall, her 10-year-old son, Rush, ran the 45th annual St. George Marathon, being the last of his siblings to complete the tradition, most of them as fourth-graders.

“I didn’t ask him or any of them. They came to me and said, ‘I want to do this.’ And that’s ultimately what kept them going. It was their decision, not mine, and that’s what kept them motivated,” Simmons said. “When we’re done, we are just so excited and proud of each other.”

Rush said he was excited to run a marathon.

“I wanted to run it because all my other siblings ran marathons when they were about my age; I’m a person that has lots of energy and I like to get it out,” Rush said. 

Despite feeling sick during the race, Rush completed the marathon, ninth in his age group of 14 and under, with a time of 5:34. He placed 2,816th overall or 1,605th in males. 

“It felt like so much joy. I can’t really explain it, but once you finish that finish line, it’s like boom, six months of training and I did it,” he said.

Rush said that it was the story of his uncle not finishing the marathon when he was eight that kept him motivated.

“He only got to mile 19 before an ambulance picked him up. He couldn’t finish it and I really wanted to,” Rush said. “I almost threw up at an aid station (stationed toward the end of the course) and a girl sat me down and said, “I’m going to call one of my people to pick you up.’ I literally yelled at her, ‘No, you don’t’ and I just ran off. I wanted to finish.”

After the race, he took his medal to school to show his class.

“His teachers at Monte Vista Elementary didn’t know about it so a lot of them were like, ‘are you sure you ran 26 miles?’” his mother said.

Also running the marathon were two cousins in Rush’s age group an uncle and an aunt, making it a true extended family marathon.

With each of her kids, Simmons has trained alongside them and run in the same marathon.

“I was able to keep up with each of my daughters for probably the first 15 miles and then they would leave me,” she said. “My 14-year-old son was way too fast. I never was with him at all. And even my youngest this past marathon, I never could keep up with him either. It was, ‘I’ll see you at the finish line.’”

During the race, Simmons said adrenaline kicks in.

“The first 15 miles is actually easy. I remember (daughter) Ava saying, ‘oh, I feel great.’ It’s about mile 20, where you’re like ‘wow, this is new territory’ because often times, you don’t train past 20 miles and you have six more,” she said.

It’s around that distance in the St. George Marathon where people are allowed to line the course and cheer.

“Luckily, every year we’ve had family members make that drive and they’ll meet us. Rush said that it was such a boost for him to see his family,” she said, adding that they are able to track runners on the course to see where they are. “At that point, you’re almost in town and it’s always nice to have people cheering you on the last six miles, when it gets the hardest.”

Ava said she was glad she was cheering as Rush ran by her and remembered thinking, “’Thank God I wasn’t doing this.’ I don’t know how I did it when I was 10.”

Even so, Ava said that although she liked cheering people on, she also likes “being the one that has big accomplishment.” 

Simmons said with each of her kids, they trained for the 26.2 miles. For Rush, it began last spring.

“We just would start out with low mileage, running to school, a couple miles. Then, we’d gradually increase our mileage until we could get up to like 20 miles. By then, they knew how it feels to run for hours and hours,” she said, adding that they’d also prepare by doing half-marathons.

Rush said it wasn’t easy.

“At the beginning, I was like, ‘I don’t want to wake up early to run to school, because I always ride my scooter to school. So that was hard,” he said. “I remember thinking that mile-and-a-half was hard and now, running five miles is easy.”

Simmons, who grew up in Southern Utah, said she got into running when she realized she was the fastest runner in her elementary school class.

“I could beat all the boys, so I thought I was really fast,” she remembered. “My teacher would say, ‘OK, everybody out and run around the school’ and I would beat everybody.”

She was encouraged by her dad, who had his doctorate in physical education and was into running.

“He said, ‘well, maybe you should start running’ so he took me to my first 5K in Zion National Park and I came in the first woman overall. I was probably 8. So, I got this confidence of running to school, which was about two miles, then doing a 10K and then a half-marathon. For the marathon, I trained with my brothers and my dad, but then he got into a motorcycle accident two weeks before the marathon and couldn’t run with us.”

Simmons said she finished the St. George Marathon fourth in her age group with a time of 4 hours 43 minutes. After that, she ran track in high school and some 5Ks, but she never thought about running another marathon until she had children. 

Fast forward to 2013, when her then 9-year-old daughter Ellie, now a Bingham High senior, decided she wanted to run a marathon.

“Ellie knew I ran my first marathon when I was 9, so she was like, ‘I want to do that too,’” she said.

Ellie ran the St. George Marathon twice, the second time finishing first in her age group as a 12-year-old, when her sister, Ava was a fourth-grader, ran her first marathon and finished fourth in the 14 and under age group. Ava now is a ninth-grader at South Jordan Middle.

The two girls’ accomplishments were celebrated at Jordan Ridge Elementary in the school newsletter.

Ava remembers running those 26 miles in just over five hours.

“It was super challenging for me,” she said. “I would train with my mom and sister, and I really liked that. When I finished, I was really proud of myself.”

After his two sisters ran marathons, their then 14-year-old older brother, CJ, who just graduated from high school last spring, ran the St. George Marathon, clocking in at 3:45, the fastest time for the Simmons family. He finished second in his age group.

“His assistant principal (Tim Heumann) told him if he could run the marathon in under four hours, he would give him a pair of SoJo (middle school) socks — and he did,” she said.  “We were going to run it again the next year, but then CJ tore his ACL so he couldn’t run it again. So, we dropped out. My big thing is I don’t like running marathons unless I’m building a relationship at the same time.”

Rush said the training runs were fun alongside his mom.

“It was always fun because my mom, when she’s working, she’s on a lot of calls, so I get to talk to her a lot when we’re running together,” he said.

That is something she has cherished as she has been on training runs alongside each of her children.

“What comes with training for a marathon is mental toughness. You have to push through so much like I’m so tired, my feet hurt, it’s so hot. With every one of my kids, I had conversations in training on route about how negative energy can suck the air away. I had that opportunity to encourage them to push through hard things,” she said. “The common takeaway from the whole family is confidence. They will all tell you that running a marathon has helped them believe they can do anything.”

That has translated into school as “they are all straight A students and leaders at school. Both Ellie and Ava are studentbody officers and my youngest, he’s in Chinese dual immersion and Chinese is really hard, so he has used those skills to push through it. They’ve all learned how to work hard, but they’ve gained confidence and keep going,” Simmons said.

Ava agrees. “It definitely taught me that I can do hard things and that when I want to give up, I shouldn’t because the end result is really satisfying,” she said. 

Running with Rush, Simmons completed her seventh St. George marathon, narrowing in on the marathon’s 10-year club, which hasn’t been a goal, but she said may become a possibility.

“I don’t know if I will; it’s not really on my radar right now,” she said. “If it happens, it’ll happen because it just naturally does if my kids or their cousins want to run it again and I’ll be right there training with them.”