Update: Jillson has surpassed her goal of $5,000.
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Long before the sun comes up, while most are still tucked in their beds, a sound begins to rise over the birds that are just starting to stir.
At 3:30 a.m., Rachel Jillson has already racked up three miles on the treadmill in her garage.
“Even this is early for me,” Jillson said as she focuses on putting one foot in front of the other.
For the last three weeks, this is how she has started her day.
“Put your shoes on and go,” she said. “You’re miserable for two miles, you’re mediocre for the next seven, and then by 10 you’re really warmed up.”
Before she heads to work, she has to run 13 miles... just an easy half marathon. Once she’s finished at work, it’ time for another 13, this time at City Park.
By the end of the day, Jillson has notched 26.2 miles, a full marathon. Over a period of 26 days, she will have done this every single day.
“Twenty-six cumulative marathons in 26 days,” she said.
That’s 681.2 miles. Why take on such a feat?
“Personal challenge, some personal growth,” she said. “Ultimately, I like to race and I like to do active things. Sometimes the medal just doesn’t quite do it for you at the end of the day.”
For Jillson, it’s about much more than just vanity or pride though. She’s going through this gauntlet of miles to raise money for Front Yard Bikes, a non-profit that has found itself on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
“She was searching for a non-profit that was active during COVID-19 and could use assistance,” said FYB’s founder, Dustin LaFont. “We’re definitely in that space.”
Front Yard Bikes has been turned into a sort of “meals on wheels,” delivering lunch and bike kits to children who need them.
“The amount of fuel, the amount of energy among our team, the sanitation supplies to get to our team, we’re in a place where this is totally brand new,” he said.
Typically, LaFont’s non-profit teaches kids how to repair bikes, in turn giving them a chance to have a new bike and develop skills that go far beyond the workshop, but all those children are now stuck at home and he had to adapt.
“As long as feeding resource is going to be a necessity for our families, we’re going to do this for our families, which isn’t normal at all for us,” he said. “We usually get big crowds that come to our space to get everything and I don’t think that’s how we’re gong to be able to operate.”
To keep operating like that, though, will drain resources. That’s why Jillson is running.
“It is hard,” Jillson said. “I mean, I need reasons to keep going. It hurts, I get hot, I get tired. There’s reasons every minute to quit.”
The pain she feels is temporary, but the money she’s raising will provide a better future for hundreds of kids across Baton Rouge, and that lasts far beyond any soreness.
“To hear that there’s someone that really believes in you to the point they’re willing to run a marathon a day for 26 days for your sake, that’s kind of exciting,” LaFont said. “That kind of puts a sense of ‘I’m worth it.’”
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