If you give a journalist a t-shirt


Today was rough. I woke up later than usual and briefly checked my calendar, noted it was clear and dressed for a day behind my desk.

I threw on the red Running for Rachael t-shirt I got Sunday at the 100-miler after party and some jeans. Little did I know I had just put my workout clothes on, too.

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As a journalist, I don’t have “typical” days, but it’s safe to say today was a typical Monday. As I peeled off my jeans in the gym locker room and reached into my bag without my running shorts in it, it felt almost natural. Of course, I forgot to pack them.
I had two options.

  1. Put the jeans on along with my thigh high boots and leave.
  2. Put my jeans on along with my running shoes and run.

Usually, I’d be outta there. Really any excuse would do for me and not having pants would undoubtedly work. But as I stood there, looking down at the “Running for Rachael” shirt the Willis family gave to me Sunday afternoon, I knew I’d be running in jeans.
This weekend my job with the local newspaper in West Baton Rouge led me to the Willis’ residence in Brusly. I spoke with Michael Willis about the Running for Rachael organization and why he was planning to run 100 miles for it.
For the sake of brevity, you can learn more about Running for Rachael’s backstory here.

I saw Michael take off to the sound of a rifle on Saturday morning. He planned to run 100 miles through Brusly and finish Sunday around noon.

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Michael Willis and his first running partner take off on Saturday, Dec. 1

On Sunday, I was back at the Willis residence for the after party. Michael greeted me with a red Running for Rachael t-shirt and an “I’m so sorry I disappointed everybody, I only made it 58 miles.”
For the record, I was far from disappointed. I was amazed.
I watched this dude maul a donut shortly before takeoff and then he ran for close to 15 hours.
I’m still amazed.
Michael’s fiancé, Megan Voda, who is the executive director of Running for Rachael, chatted with me about the organization and its mission on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s about running as far as you can and doing what you didn’t know your body could do,” she said. “I don’t run, but I’ve crossed so many finish lines I never knew I could.”
I don’t like to run. I don’t wear jeans (because leggings are pants).

But my looming laundry basket declared today the day to wear the jeans stuffed in the back of my dresser. And my Running for Rachael t-shirt declared today the day I would run anyway.
Today I was the fool in jeans running, sweating and I’ll even admit to doing a little swearing, on the treadmill. But I did it. I got my mile (yes, singular) in and that’s what it’s all about. Today I ran for Rachael.
My job takes me all over the West Side. I meet people from all walks of life, small business owners, soybean farmers, prosecutors and everyone in between. I don’t and can’t write enough about the valuable experiences I’ve had in my short time as a reporter, and I don’t always get to say thank-yous for the impact people make on me. But this one just felt necessary.
I’d like to thank the Willis family and Running for Rachael for thoughtfully including me by giving me a t-shirt and helping me suck it up and run it out. Even if it was in jeans.

The Willis family and their friends stand with Rachael’s Tree at the Willis residence shortly before takeoff on Saturday, December 1, 2018.


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