Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Run for a Cause—But Be Careful

The Ronald McDonald House has a great slogan for their Run for Ronald McDonald House Charities—"For Many It's Not Just About Making It to the Finish Line...It's About Making A Difference." Today a large portion road races (from 5Ks to marathons) are fund-raisers for charities. It's a great way for a charity to raise the much needed funds to help them operate or to fund research. The new marathon here in my own state, The UnitedHealthCare of the Carolinas North Carolina Marathon helps raise funds for Foster Friends of NC a nonprofit organization that helps foster children be able to have experiences such as camp, dance lessons, or art classes.

The running community has a big heart and the turn out for many of these races is huge. Not only do these races help provide funds for the various organizations, some help provide a structured training program for many new runners to run their first half-marathon or full marathon. One of the first organizations to provide such a program is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training® (TNT). Over the past 20 years, TNT has grown with over 389,000 participants, from first timers to seasoned athletes. The program now includes training for marathons, half marathons, triathlons, 100-mile century bike rides and hiking adventures.

These charity marthon programs are for great causes but please heed this warning: Enter these programs with a clear mind and a mindset ready to put yourself through some grueling training. Running a marathon has been somewhat romanticized over the years. While raising money for these awesome charities is a noble cause, you don't want to become a running casualty for the cause. Some programs such as TNT have certified coaches that provide training and clinics on fitness, nutrition, gear and injury prevention as well as guide you on your weekly training. Others however basically provide you with a guaranteed marathon entry if you raise X amount for them. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think these organizations are being underhanded at all. I just don't think some of them truly understand what is demanded of you when you run a marathon. There's a huge difference in training for a marathon and completing a marathon.

As a rule of thumb, most marathon training plans expect a runner to have a weekly mileage of at least 20 miles with a long run of 6 miles before even starting a marathon training program. Depending of the individual it could take 6 months to a year to get to that point. Often, the charity training programs have people who've never run. From what I could tell, none of the charity running programs require a certain mileage base before beginning their program. Most marathons officially close after 6.5 hours. In order to finish within that timeframe, you'd need to run at least a 15 min/mile pace.

My intention is not to dampen any spirits or keep people from supporting their favorite charity. But, I do want non-runners and new runners to know exactly what they're getting into. The fundraising demands for some of these races are quite intense. For some, a couple thousand dollars have to be raised per participant. Some runners get caught up in the fund-raising and forget about the training. Both (fundraising and training) should have equal focus.

If you're an experienced runner, jump right in with both feet and get to training! If you're a newbie, I highly recommend using this year to build your mileage base and pick a charity and race to support in fall 2010. Also, check out the training programs for the various charities. If you're a new runner, select one that's going to provide you with support and training. If the charity of your choice doesn't offer that support; then you need to be willing to find it elsewhere such as your local running club or running store.
If you're new to running, I think you should look at this venture as two-fold. First you're helping raise money for an awesome charity that will in turn help many others. Second, you're helping yourself get on track for a healthy, fit lifestyle. You don't want to help one (the charity) while at the same time hindering the other (your health). You want it to be a win, win situation!

Listed below are a few of the many charities that offer half and full marathon programs. Check them out!
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training®Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon Nov. 2009; Women's Running Magazine Women's Half Marathon Nov. 2009; Honolulu Marathon Dec. 2009; Disney World Marathon Jan. 2010; P.F. Chang's Rock n Roll Marathon Jan. 2010
Team Ronald McDonald House CharitiesBank of America Chicago Marathon October 2009
Team Challenge Crohn's & Colitis FoundationRock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon December 2009
Arthritis Foundation's Joints In Motion Training TeamReggae Half and Full Marathons Dec. 2009; Walt Disney World Half and Full Marathons Jan. 2010
St. Jude Hero Charity AthletesZooma Denver Half Sept 2009; Bank of America Chicago Marathon Oct. 2009; Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 2009; US Half Marathon Nov. 2009; St. Jude Memphis Marathon Dec. 2009
Children's Tumor Foundation Endurance TeamPhiladelphia Distance Run Half Marathon Sept 2009; Portland Marathon Oct. 2009; Rock n Roll San Jose Oct 2009; Twin Cities Marathon Oct. 2009; Hartford Marathon Oct. 2009; Bank of America Chicago Marathon Oct. 2009; Long Beach Marathon Oct. 2009; Columbus Marathon Oct. 2009; Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 2009; New York City Marathon Nov. 2009; Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon Nov. 2009; Las Vegas Marathon Dec. 2009; Tucson Marathon Dec. 2009; Disney World Jan. 2010

The video clip below will give you more insight into the Team in Training Program.

Check out the video clip below to learn more about the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's Team Challenge program.

Check out the video clip below about the Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion program.


Kalong said...

What a great post, thanks for all this information and the tips! I definitely agree that running for a charity marathon is a huge thing and that runners should really know what they are getting into first. Most people start out small, like 5k's before they move forward.

IzzyBubbles said...

Great post...I love the idea of running for charity, especially when it's a charity that means something to you. It takes running to a new level. But I wholeheartedly agree on the training - I just sat down with someone doing TNT to run the SF Women's Marathon in October, and made the mistake of asking her when she started training for the half marathon. She replied "I'm doign the full marathon. I think only doing a half marathon is stupid." Say what? This is coming from a girl who has never really run over 5 miles. Now, I've done both a half marathon and marathon and while I would say that a half marathon in no way compares to the effort you have to expend to do a marathon, it's anything but "stupid." So I have a feeling this girl is in for a rude awakening when it comes to marathon training. Based on what some friends of mine have told me, I don't think people who sign up for charity running programs always have a very good idea of what they're getting into.

Relentless Forward Commotion said...

GREAT post! I love running for charity. When i'm having a "I really don't want to train today" day, I remember the other reason why I'm running....the charity...and it motivates me. But I couldn't agree more with your advice! I really don't think many people realize exactly how many miles a marathon is!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Kalong!Thanks for the support! I'm wiht you. I think if you work your way up, you'll probably end up enjoying running more upping the chances of stickingn with it.

RunnerDude said...

Hey IzzyBubbles!Unfortunately I think your right. They have very good intentions, but my goodness, I trained for my first marathon and I still wasn't prepared for the experience. Sometimes you just have to experience it to understand it. I just hope they don't get hurt finding out.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Heather! I know what you mean. I did Team in Traing a long time ago and knowing who I was running for and what it would mean to them was very motivating indeed!

Regina said...

Great post. I am currently training with TNT, but for the NYC Triathlon, which is an Olympic distance tri. The thought of raising the minimum fundraising amount in this economy was daunting to say the least ($2600), but I far surpassed it at over $4000. This is thanks to the fantastic support of friends and family.

As for the training, the coaches are fab-u-lous! I don't think I would be as well prepared as I am if not for the coaching; always supportive, realistic and informative. I went from a non runner in February to running 7 miles (comfortably). I won't set any land speed records, but I have never run that far in my life. I am also now a terrifically efficient swimmer who can swim over a mile and bike over 25 with no problem.

It feels good to be able to do some good for the charity with the added bonus for myself. I'm sure I will be on board again for next year!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Regina!! That's awesome! Keep me posted on your traing and I want all the scoop after the race!