LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - For all the runners who take part in the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, there is a point in the race when they have to dig down deep and find motivation.
For dozens of UofL students, that motivation is children who are in a race of their own: a race fighting for their lives.
"To look at Aiden, other than his bald head, you would never know he had cancer," said Gena Johnson about her son. "He is a bundle of joy."
Aiden is winner everyday to his parents, but being able to wear a Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon medal is extra special for him. He got it from first year UofL medical student Elayna Dush. She ran the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon Saturday morning and gave her medal to Aiden.
"It makes you not feel quite so tired when you are thinking that there is somebody else behind this you are running for," said Dush.
This year, 75 medical students were paired with children who are battling cancer and blood disorders. It's part of a program called Medals4Mettle.
"These kids need a pick me up," said UofL medical student David Duncan. "A lot of them are dealing with very serous diseases and they just need someone to say hey, I'm there for you."
In a ceremony, the students presented their medals to the children.
Medical student Maggie Sager ran for Chase Weaver.
"I actually thought about Chase a lot throughout the race because at mile 11, it hit me that I was hurting pretty bad," said Sager. "Chase kept me going through the entire race. It felt really amazing."
"I am very excited," Chase said. "I felt very happy when I got the medal."
"She loved it," said Chase's mother Cheryl Weaver. "That's all she could talk about this week is, I can't wait to get my medal!"
The med students didn't just hand over their medals to strangers. They met their running buddies and learned more about their illness and their journey. They know for these children, the scars - some physical and emotional - are permanent, while race day struggles are fleeting.
'Maybe this will brighten up their day," said Duncan.
"If I could just put a smile on Chases' face that's worth all 13.1 miles," said Sager.
Medals4Mettle started in 2005 and there are 70 chapters around the world. They've given out 40,000 medals.