Quadriplegic set to race thousands in the Louisiana Marathon

Quadriplegic set to race thousands in The Louisiana Marathon
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Thousands of runners from around the world will get the chance this weekend to experience Baton Rouge in a unique way. But for one local man, the Louisiana Marathon is more than just a race. It is an opportunity to see the city like never before.

Mitch Bourgeois, a computer programmer at Blue Cross Blue Shield, is focused as he tackles the task at hand. He uses the tip of an eraser to type. He has everything he needs in his quaint cubicle. Within reach are a bicycle pump and the Louisiana Marathon race guide.

"We haven't done a lot of training. Everything was kind of pulled together last minute," Mitch Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois has run a marathon in his "younger years," he said, but none like this. He is racing the Louisiana Half Marathon with a big team of co-workers.

"At first I heard seven, then 10, and now I'm hearing even more than that," Mitch Bourgeois said.

For Bourgeois, running is out of the question. He was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident 23 years ago. Now he relies on a power chair to get around, but it is his positive spirit that really drives him.

"Attitude. Everything is fun, and life is too short to take anything seriously, in my opinion," Mitch Bourgeois said.

His co-worker and 33-time marathoner, Theresa Vu, will be one of a dozen people behind his wheels on Sunday. Having seen several teams equipped with race chairs across the country, she decided to open a window that would give Bourgeois an opportunity to see the city again.

"I came back and asked, 'When is the last time you saw Baton Rouge?' He said, 'Vu, since my accident, I haven't seen it,'" Theresa Vu said.

Team Mitch was born. Blue Cross got the team a race chair, and last Sunday, they took it out for a spin.

Louisiana Marathon co-founder Danny Bourgeois said the group will be met by some serious competition.

"We are real happy to say two years ago they had one chair, last year there were 27 chairs that ran in different races, and this year there's going to be 50 chairs running," Danny Bourgeois said.

Mitch said he does not have a specific race goal. He just doesn't want to be the last to finish.

"Then again, all I have to do is sit there and pray that someone's still behind me when I'm on the downhill run," Mitch Bourgeois said.

"I told him it doesn't matter. One of the pushers is going to be last. Bottom line is, everybody is a winner," Vu said.

Mitch said getting the chance to go the distance in a race he thought he'd never experience is the biggest victory of all.

After the race, Blue Cross plans to donate Team Mitch's chair to the Louisiana Marathon so that others can use it in future races.

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