Whether you’re an experienced runner or lacing up a pair of trainers for the first time, charity running is a great way to find motivation and take the journey to the next level. 5K races, 10K fun runs, marathons, and trail runs all offer a variety of ways to collaborate with passionate nonprofit organizations.
Charity running is becoming more popular each year. According to Runner’s World, “Running USA estimates that U.S. road races pulled in $1.2 billion for nonprofit organizations in 2012, more than double the amount from a decade ago.” The Chicago Marathon, alone, has 190 charity partners, further proving that giving back is important to the running community.
You may raise money for others as you toe the start line each year, but you will soon find the personal benefits of charity running are priceless.
Finding a Good Cause
You’ve decided to get involved with charity running—now you have to pick an organization to support. There are many ways to find a nonprofit partner, but organizations with which you’re already involved are great places to start. Do you volunteer at a local animal shelter? Make home deliveries for Meals on Wheels? Support a local youth organization? Begin by asking the staff if they already have a system in place for charity running; if not, it is very easy to set up a GoFundMe page to share with family and friends. This allows them to donate in one lump sum of their choosing or with a specific dollar amount for each mile you complete on race day.
There are also several national nonprofits that annually accept charity runners into their programs. St. Jude’s searchable database helps you find 5K races and related events that build charitable partners into your participation. Once registered as a St. Jude Hero, for instance, you will receive a personal fundraising website, e-mail templates to send to family and friends, and a host of fundraising tips. PETA, the American Heart Association, Doctors Without Borders, and many other organizations offer similar programs.
Training for a race of any length can be challenging. Timing is an enormous factor, and it can be hard to find the motivation to log your most important miles as event day approaches. Joining a training program that offers group charity running opportunities is a great way to stay motivated through teamwork, accountability, and fundraising.
Team in Training (TNT) is the flagship fundraising program for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This is a great program for the charity runner who is looking for added support through each training session. Beyond fundraising assistance, TNT also offers coaches who share workouts, as well as clinics on everything from nutrition to hydration. Above all, the organization has a wide social network of like-minded runners who enhance the experience of charity running through consistent companionship with participants who are returning annually.
Local training organizations offer opportunities to become a charity runner for more personal causes, as well. The Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA)—a fantastic group with which I’ve trained on many occasions—has its own mentorship-based running program for at-risk Chicago-area high school students, called Road Scholars. This partnership makes it easy for CARA training participants to run directly for Road Scholars through a local community that allows you to see your fundraising money go to good use.
One of the hidden benefits of charity running is the way it brings people together. When you begin fundraising for a race, you naturally share your plans with family and friends while asking them to help you reach your target. And after charity running for organizations like PAWS Chicago and the South West Special Recreation Association, I’ve found that people who donate to your cause are truly invested in your success—continuing to support you well beyond the process of fundraising, training, and running your first event.
There are also races that annually encourage your social circle to get together and participate for a good cause. Relay for Life is one of the best yearly events, using teamwork and compassion to help find a cure for cancer. In a sometimes uninspired community, charity running gives people a reason to come together and do some real good year after year.
What are your favorite charity runs and road races? Leave us a comment or send us a #GoodMatters tweet!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.