The marathon, once considered a grueling sport open only to elite male athletes, is quickly gaining in popularity among both endurance runners and casual joggers. In fact, the most prominent races are now selling out their spots just hours after opening for registration. There are a few ways to gain entry into a marathon: you can register, try your hand in the race lottery where registrants are drawn at random, or you can run on behalf of a charitable organization.
Today, more and more people are taking the latter route. The 2010 ING New York City Marathon set a charity record for that particular race: approximately 8,000 runners competed on behalf of nearly 200 charities, collectively raising $30 million 1. FLiP Director of Events Kate Amore was among those running for charity. Kate, a fundraiser by trade and running enthusiast, decided to mix business and pleasure for a cause near to her heart.
Kate ran on behalf of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training ®, the world’s largest endurance sports training program, and independently raised about $4,500 to compete in the NYC Marathon. She said she chose Team in Training because the program not only benefits a great cause, but also affords access to free training and coaches. Kate says, “It’s a win-win. I get to set a goal and achieve a major accomplishment while also raising money for a worthy cause.” Kate says programs like Team in Training help to keep the runner committed and on par with their goals. As she remembers, “there were plenty of times when I felt like not running, but I had to because it wasn’t just about me anymore”. In fact, according to Kate, thanks to the great training and group motivation, the fundraising can actually be the biggest challenge of the race.
But are marathoners effective fundraisers? Kate says yes, saying that while “fundraising can be harder than running, there is a persistence level and a level of commitment required to train and run that long of a distance that translates into being an effective fundraiser.”
Based on an analysis of the 2010 Boston Marathon, a new study from FirstGiving reports that fundraisers needed to net a minimum of 36 – 40 individual donations in order to meet the required $3,250 needed to run the Boston Marathon as a nonprofit partner. While most of the donations came in at the $25 – $75 level, the most successful fundraisers garnered more donations in the $100 – $150 range. As an added incentive, runners who do not meet the minimum to race must front the difference through a charge to their personal credit cards 2.
However, some seasoned endurance athletes have a sore spot for those running for charity. James McAllister, a London resident and avid racer who has run the Berlin, Prauge, Barcelona, Rome, and Great Wall marathons, says he can’t get spots in the races he wants to run because charities buy up all the spots. “Three years in a row I’ve been denied entry from both the London and the NYC marathons,” he remarks.
Jim says the first big event he participated in was for charity, and now says it was not only the first but also the last. “Often times the only way in to these events is through a charity, and that, coupled with the fact they haven’t exhausted their resources through constant requests for cash from friends and family to do these things, these first timers are able to raise a significant amount of money with very little effort – first time around.”
Kate Amore begs to differ. While she has only run one full marathon for charity, she did raise money for a half-marathon prior to that—about $4,500 dollars for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Between these two races, she has successfully engaged enough donors to raise $9,000.
So all parties agree that yes, marathoners do make effective fundraisers. And while some people think they are taking up too many entry spots, there are plenty of races to go around, more than 500 on all seven continents 3. Moreover, worthy causes and people in need could always use the help. So, if you don’t like this, don’t run a marathon… take a hike.
1 This Year’s NYC Marathon Sets Charity Record, Competitor
2 Marathon Fundraising Study: Benchmarking Success, FirstGiving Blog
3 Marathon World – a directory of links to 531 marathon races in 65 countries and on all 7 continents. Select the area you are interested in from the menu to the left.