School Nurse Marathon Runner


My name is Mamie Coker and I have been school nurse coordinator at Hall County Schools for 23 years and a nurse for 33. I began running about 8 years ago when I found myself empty nesting. I run for fun but have done some 5K, 10K and even 3 half marathons.

Running a marathon has always been on my bucket list. Since I am not getting any younger I signed up this year for the Silver Comet full marathon October 29, 2016. I will be 56 running my first marathon.

When running the Peachtree and heading up Cardiac Hill I look over and see the patients from Sheppard Spinal Center lining the sidewalks and I immediately felt the motivation to forget the pain and push through to finish strong. That’s where I got the idea to run the marathon for “my” students, who due to chronic illness (asthma, diabetes, seizures, and cancer) are not able. One in five of Georgia’s school children are diagnosed with a chronic illness.

Then I thought about the woefully underpaid school nurses, who take care of these students day after day and the economic sacrifices they make to work as a school nurse. They can easily work elsewhere for twice the pay.

The general public has no idea how hard it is to be a school nurse. When someone goes non-responsive at a school, there is no “code red’ team to show up. It is the only the school nurse until EMS arrives.

I run on a main thoroughfare in downtown Gainesville. I decided to put a nurse’s cap on my running visor so when people ask, “What is that on your head?” I tell them I am dedicating my running to advocate and bring awareness to school nurses and to students with chronic illness.

On days after work when I am so tired and it is 93 degrees outside or on Saturday when it is time for a 18 mile long run and I really don’t feel like training,  I think about all of the  student who due to their chronic illness do not feel like coming onto school, but though it out. Then I think about the nurses, who because of the care they give day after day allow these students to reach their academic potential.

Then I put on my nurse cap running visor and quit making excuses and go out and run. 

Running this marathon will be the hardest thing I have ever done. The nurse’s cap on my head and what it represents will be my motivation for 26 miles and 385 yards.