Training for and completing a full marathon and fighting debilitating diseases such as cancer require similar levels of dedication, hard work and effort; the metaphor is so ideal that not only do many marathoners choose to run for a cause, many runners choose to run a marathon because of the cause.
Besides the obvious benefit of raising money for a charitable organization, training for and running a marathon with a charity team adds immeasurable financial and moral support. In addition to paying for runners' gear, travel costs, and hotel rooms, charitable organizations provide a literal support group to train for and tackle the daunting 26.2 mile journey, from training schedules and group runs to encouragement along the route of the marathon. For many runners, running with a struggling or lost loved one in mind adds the extra motivation required to persevere.
George Guerin, blogger of NJ.com, muses: "I ran the NYC Marathon with Fred’s Team, which raises money for pediatric cancer research. Having cancer patients cheer me on along the route was certainly inspiring and the medal I received after completing the race (designed by a pediatric cancer patient) is something I will cherish forever."
The role of charity runners in marathons has significantly increased since the early 1980s. Since the London marathon announced its first official charity-sponsored entries in 1984, the race has ballooned to a field of participants of which over 3/4 run for a charity. If runners can't qualify for the elite Boston marathon or were unable to gain entry to the New York marathon through its lottery system, they can enter the races by running for a charity.
Boston's limited number of entries available to charity runners who don't need to qualify upsets some who feel it taints a race of elite marathoners; yet, according to the Eagle Tribune in North Andover, MA, out of 26,700 participant's in last month's Boston marathon, 21,000 qualified, and Boston turns away about 100 charitable organizations per year because of limitations in the feasible number of runners on the course.
Marathons, half marathons, triathlons and cycling events increasingly draw charity-driven participants, and the benefits for the organizations and the athletes are equally fantastic.
Here is a partial listing of major charity organizations which sponsor marathon runners:
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training
- Team Hole in the Wall
- Fred's Team
- Susan G. Komen Marathon for a Cure