Last month, while I was attending a Mardi Gras coronation for the Krewe of Akewa, I heard about a woman named Nikki Kendall. She was being crowned as one of the 'ladies' of the krewe for the upcoming Mardi Gras season and during the ceremony, they mentioned that Nikki was not only a veteran, but was training to run her first full marathon, all the way in Chicago, in the Chicago Marathon October 7th, 2018 no less, to raise money for The Pat Tillman Foundation. I thought to myself, I need to meet this lady!

Nikki is a great gal! After chatting about what she wanted to do while she was in Chicago and her journey thus far with her training and fundraising efforts, she won the 'booze wagon' they were giving away and while she kept the booze, she gave me the wheel barrow for my farm work. You know I really liked her then!

Why was I so impressed with Nikki? First off, I'm impressed by anyone who serves their country. Secondly, I love that she was so passionate about The Pat Tillman Foundation. If you don't know who Pat Tillman was, he was a professional football player who left his lucrative career in the NFL to fight for his country after the September 11th attacks. Tillman served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before being killed while serving his country in 2004.

With that said, I want to make sure everyone in our community knows about what Nikki is doing. Let's face it, she's making Shreveport/Bossier look good! Here's what Nikki has to say for herself!

Nikki, first, thank you for your service! Can you tell us more about your time in the military?

I served 15½ yrs in the Louisiana National Guard. 12 of those years on the active duty side. I worked in human resources and was a truck driver. 2003-2004 deployment to Iraq.

Being in the military, one would expect you to be physically fit. How has your service prepared you for running your first marathon?

Being military did require a certain level of fitness. With that comes the knowledge to prepare for this big run. Learning to be committed.

For folks that may be thinking they may like to start running, what's a good way to start?

I would suggest to a new runner to find a group to get into. Find those of the same pace, then those that can help improve. Set goals and take the steps to get there.

Moving up from half marathons to a full marathon is a big commitment. What have you had to do to get yourself ready?

To commit to a full marathon... I first had to discuss my goal with my husband. I needed his support mostly. We have a 7yr old son, soccer, school... full time jobs & life. I knew I had to put miles on the road. A training calendar and an awesome support system is getting me ready.

What are you looking forward to seeing/doing most in Chicago?

I cannot wait to eat amazing pizza!

Obviously, someone like Pat Tillman, a true American hero, knew the meaning of sacrifice. If you feel comfortable, how do you, as a veteran and as an athlete, feel about the recent Nike ad campaign?

Nike Ad... to each their own. The ad is great. The face of the ad, they could have done better.

You said your goal was to raise $1,500 for The Pat Tillman Foundation and that you've already surpassed that goal. What's your new goal and how can people donate to help support your cause?

I reached the $1500 way ahead of time. I had until November to get the money raised. Anyone can go to The Pat Tillman Foundation website and make a donation. If they want to donate specifically to support my Team Tillman run, I have a link.

Are other runners from your USAFit group going to Chicago with you and what charities are they running for if any?

I think we have 9 going to Chicago. One is running for a diabetes foundation and 3 are running as St. Jude heroes. The others got in by lottery draw.

Who is going with you to Chicago as your support staff and cheerleaders?

My wonderful husband, a cousin from Ohio, 2 brothers (both running, too), and my amazing training partners. They are all great.

What's the first thing you plan to eat/drink after you complete your marathon?

BEER! We run for beer. Seriously, a beer is great after a long run. I will want chocolate milk and as much food as possible!

I certainly hope you find it in your heart to support Nikki and her incredible cause! No donation is too large or too small! Even if you just want to leave a message of encouragement, you can do so by clicking here!