Why do we do it? Why do we get out there, day after day, and beat our bodies up? When is enough … enough? When the mind says “no more”? When the body says “can’t do it”? My tagline for this blog is “insights and ramblings about loving pain” – what a bunch of whack-jobs huh? Running competitively (and for fun) is honestly one of the weirdest, hardest, and most freeing lifestyles you could have, but we’re often at a loss for words for … “why?”
There are many many reasons why – I feel better about myself, I need to relieve stress, I am looking for a new personal record (PR), I want to be able to eat a lot, I want to loose weight, I absolutely love wearing tiny shorts, and the list goes on. But I’d like to dive into one of the reasons at the top of many people’s list … and it has nothing to do with how fast you get to the finish line. Instead of “I <fill in the blank>” there is a massive and growing population of people who run because “THEY …. need help”. Let’s talk about charity running (or biking, swimming, trekking, walking, etc).
I’ve been a competitive distance runner for 16+ years and have been through it all – high school xc/track, NCAA xc/track, road racing, a bit of trail running. Good years, bad years, frustrating years, and seasons of continued PR’s. At the end of the day, the charity running project I did in the Grand Canyon was one of my proudest running endeavors … by far my slowest running endeavor, but my heart was on fire. I won’t recap that trip or even get into the charity I supported, but I will say I encountered all of the following top five reasons, in no particular order, to get out the door and run for charity:
The running community itself is tight – no doubt. But there are many who simply have no idea why anybody would wake up 2 hours early and just … go … run. Again, it’s honestly the weirdest thing I think anybody does and many would agree. When running for charity, we open up the doors to anybody and everybody that might have personal experience or know somebody with the mission of our charity. Cancer survivors, missionaries, veterans, and the list goes on.
2. No Pressure
For those that love to get out and perform to the best of our abilities, we know it takes a toll on the body but also the mind. Is that twinge in my knee going to affect tomorrow’s tempo run? Mile repeats were on average 2 seconds slower than last year at this time …. NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! When training and racing for charity, you get to inspire and give the same amount regardless of performance.
One of the most humbling moments in my running career was on the starting line of the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon. A couple of minutes before the cannon exploded to send the mass of runners on their way, the wheelchair race began their 26.2 mile journey. Double-amputees, war veterans, blind runners, and the like were attacking the pavement. I usually always complain and moan the week following a marathon or tough race with how stiff and sore I am, but not this time – I was thankful my legs were intact with my torso. Many people affected by the illnesses, poverty, and violence good charities help out would love to go take a walk down by the lake or jog for maybe 5 minutes … and here I am frustrated again that my timing chip doesn’t fit my shoelaces JUST right or worrying about hitting the first mile split within 3-4 seconds of goal pace.
4. Making a Difference
A lot of people are making excellent choices with excellent charities to provide better life (and preserve life) for the sick, needy, wounded, neglected, and impoverished. Plain and simple, raising money makes a difference. The logistics and costs involved in distributing simple healthy meals around in the globe, or cancer research, or providing clean well water to remote locations is incredible. A single serving of food distributed by Kids Against Hunger is $0.25 – or ~1/30 the cost of grabbing fast food … a little truly goes a long way! When you answer the call to impact those that might be very similar (struggling through a sickness you’ve fought or that’s in your family) or very different (3rd world impoverished children eating 1/2 of a meal per day) from you, there is something created in us that explodes with joy.
5. Model Commitment
By being the athlete raising support, you get to show your support system that you mean business! You are dedicated to getting to that start / finish line and you’re not just “asking for money again”. You are being proactive in your endeavor and challenging others to support however they can. It’s good to ask for support in many different ways (not just money) so your team can dedicate themselves how they feel fit. If somebody doesn’t want to (or can’t) give money, no problem! See if they’d help share the word or design a poster for you. Your closely knit team and on-looking strangers alike should see that you mean business.
Running (and biking, swimming, walking, etc) for charity is increasing in popularity as is the commercial event-driven endurance fitness industry. An incredible new and revolutionary way to “flow” the support to athletes and their personally chosen charities is at IR4C.com (I Race For Cause). Check them out and see how good it might feel to benefit others while continuing your life as a whack-job endurance athlete.