Some runners from today’s Zydeco Marathon will go on to qualify for the Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon.
But not everyone in the race was running for a competitive time.
Among the 2,000 people in the marathon, it was hard to miss these runners.
A group called Ainsley’s Angels pairs able-bodied runners with an “angel rider” who can’t run on their own.
“We can’t do what we do without the working legs of someone who’s willing to run with their heart and not with their legs,” said co-founder Kristen Seaward, from Lake Charles.
It all started with one chair in a race, her niece Ainsley’s.
She died three years ago, after being diagnosed with a rare and terminal genetic disorder. But the smile on her face when she was taken out for a run is what brought created this idea.
“This is her legacy and I’m here talking to you today to educate the community about this amazing thing called inclusion,” Seaward said.
Standing next to her was a volunteer wearing a fire fighting uniform and holding up a US flag.
“Seeing that smile on our riders’ faces is just priceless. There’s a lot that goes into it. And at the end result, with rain, sleet, snow or hail, we’re coming through,” said the volunteer, Ryan Mast.
He was one of seven volunteers in Sunday’s marathon.
He found out about the group during a race in 2012 and has been running with them ever since.
Read more about Mast and his group, Flags to the Finish here.
“A lot of runners are competitive, I get it. I’m competitive by nature but I like to be slow because there’s more fun to have. We stop to take pictures, high-fives, ‘what’s that that you’re doing?’ ‘well here you go check this out.’ And from there we’ve been able to recruit many, many people,” he said.
There are now thousands of Angel Riders and Runners across the country, from Louisiana all the way to Hawaii.
“It’s something you have to experience, you can’t put it into words. So we really just want to help the community to realize that just because somebody has a different mode of transportation, meaning they don’t have working legs, doesn’t mean they’re any different than you or I and that they still have the opportunity and the ability to do amazing things,” said Seaward.
To find out more about the non-profit or how to volunteer, click here.