Louisiana Marathon race participants are able to run for charity for the first time this month

Each January, runners, health nerds and those looking to check off bucket list items lace up their sneakers and head to Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Marathon: a two-day event with races ranging from 10 yards to 26.2 miles.

While most participants are motivated by their personal goals, another group is prepping to run, jog or walk for more than just themselves. Starting this marathon season, Charity Runners in the Louisiana Marathon’s Geaux the Distance Charity Program have been able to raise funds for a local nonprofit throughout their training process.

Mike Wattigny of FreshJunkie Racing, which owns and operates the Louisiana Marathon, says he hopes adding this charity aspect of the race will draw more runners and give them another reason to reach the finish line.

“There are a lot of people out there that do run for health and do run for fitness, but when you add on a purpose behind, it just skyrockets the level of motivation,” he says.

The race’s first Geaux the Distance partner is Girls on the Run (GOTR) South Louisiana, a nonprofit that works to improve the confidence and health of young girls through exercise, running, peer conversations and more. To give back, Charity Runners create webpages on the Louisiana Marathon website where they share their stories and why they’re raising money for GOTR. Friends, family and other racers can use these profiles to donate to the runners’ causes leading up to race day. Wattigny says GOTR is on pace to raise $5,000 through the Geaux the Distance program this year.

GOTR South Louisiana Executive Director Carley Fuller says the money raised by marathon Charity Runners this year will go toward the GOTR scholarship fund and to provide programming for young girls in the community.

Girls on the Run is on track to meet its goal of raising $5,000 this year through the marathon’s Geaux the Distance program.

“It is important for us that the Girls on the Run program gets to be at the forefront of this Geaux the Distance program,” she says. “I think it sends a message to young girls that other community partners care about the journey that they are going through.”

GOTR already has its own SoleMates program, where those preparing for physical events or races can raise money for the nonprofit through a fundraising website. Wattigny says SoleMates fits right into the marathon fundraising model he has been hoping to achieve for years, which he says is a great way for charities to build support without having to put on costly events or races of their own.

“Girls on the Run is more fitting into the true fundraising team model, which is what we’ve wanted to do,” Wattigny says. “The challenge is that a lot of nonprofits don’t have the infrastructure for an endurance fundraising team.”

In addition to GOTR, the marathon is supporting two other causes with ties to the race this year: Ainsley’s Angels and the Run Gulf Coast Fund. Ainsley’s Angels is a nationwide organization that allows those with special needs to participate in endurance events in special wheelchairs guided by other runners, including some at this month’s races. The Run Gulf Coast Fund promotes healthy lifestyle through donating to running clubs, volunteer groups and more.

Though not tied to individual runners in the Geaux the Distance program, marathon supporters can also donate money to these groups through the Louisiana Marathon’s website.


In Baton Rouge, Claudia Henry has already raised more than her benchmark $400 as she preps for 26.2 miles. It’s just another way she’s been crushing goals through marathon training.

Henry started training a few years ago in the hopes of participating in the 2023 Louisiana Marathon, but an injury made her defer her registration until 2024. She says the injury gave her a new outlook on marathon prep. This meant fueling her body with the right foods and investing in running shoes and other equipment.

To Henry, running has been like therapy. It brings her happiness and gives her a newfound sense of community, confidence and appreciation for what her body can do.

Over in Ponchatoula, Emily Anthony is training for her first half-marathon. She’s a commander in the Louisiana Army National Guard and is no stranger to running. But she admits she’s not too fond of the exercise form. To stay on track, Anthony has been following an 11-week cross-training program that involves weightlifting, walking and running.

Both women are working to be Charity Runners for GOTR in this month’s marathon races. And both have their own reasons why they chose to run for the charity.

Henry wanted to volunteer and get more involved with her community. But, between work, marathon training and a social life, she realized she might not have a lot of extra time to give. The GOTR’s SoleMates program and the Louisiana Marathon’s Geaux the Distance program gave her an opportunity to use her training to give back.

“Girls on the Run’s whole mission is to teach young girls to be confident and to do that through physical activity,” Henry says. “What’s so cool about being a SoleMate and raising money for Girls on the Run is that I’m literally doing that. Training for the marathon has boosted my self-confidence so much.”

Anthony has a personal connection to GOTR. She served as a coach in the program while teaching at Baton Rouge’s Dufrocq School. When she moved to Ponchatoula last January, Anthony did not find an established GOTR program near her, so she she joined the GOTR South Louisiana Coach Advisory Board and turned to the SoulMates program. She had raised funds through SoleMates before while training for and racing in the Crescent City Classic in 2019.

“When I signed up to be a coach, it was for me to give to my students,” she says. “But really, they gave a lot to me as well. There was so much embedded in the lessons for the girls that wasn’t just for them as elementary school students. It was so helpful for me too, just as a woman. ”

Claudia Henry plans to run the full 26.2-mile marathon this month as a Charity Runner.

Home stretch

Back in November, 225 asked Henry and Anthony what they expected to feel as they made the final push and drifted over the finish line at the end of their races.

“I get this vision in my head (of) crossing the finish line and hugging my mom,” Henry says. “It’s going to be so rewarding to cross the finish line and know I’m able to give other girls in south Louisiana the opportunity to participate in (GOTR) programs and realize their limitless potential.”

Anthony agrees the hard work will be worth it.

“I think it’ll feel surreal,” she says. “Running has been such a struggle for me for so many years, and it’s always the thing in the Army that’s made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. … I’m going to go out there (on race day), and I’m going to go 13 miles, even if I have to walk a little bit.”

For Wattigny, seeing Charity Runners like Henry and Anthony reach their goals, is a first step.

“I’m really excited to be able to get (the Geaux the Distance Program) started, but this is as small as it will ever be,” he says.

He hopes to have even more Charity Runners sign up to run their races for a greater cause in 2025. And he aims to have 10 to 20 other charities and nonprofits follow in GOTR’s footsteps, using the race to raise funds through an eager group of selfless athletes. thelouisianamarathon.com

How it works

Geaux the Distance Charity Runners create webpages where supporters can donate to their mission. Those participating in the 5K or quarter-marathon have to raise a minimum of $250, and those running the marathon or half-marathon must raise at least $400. If they meet those benchmarks, their entry fee is refunded.