It's hugely motivating
Running a half marathon or a marathon is a big ask for most of us (and for less experienced runners completing a 10k can pose a big challenge) so if you decide to run for a charity it can provide huge motivation during the training period. Let's face it there's going to be lots of occasions when a night-in on the sofa or a night-out at the pub is going to be more tempting than a 10 mile run in the cold and wet.
However if you've signed up to support a charity you won't want to let anyone down and are sure to pull on your trainers and head out the door. The motivation factor can be a huge help just at the times when your training is getting tough and you're thinking about chucking it or settling for a more modest time
Your efforts can make a real difference
The money raised by runners at hundreds of races throughout the year provides invaluable funds to a wide range of charities. A charity that benefits enormously from runners efforts is Hope for Children. Hope raises about £1m per annum but nearly £100,000 of that comes from runners at the Edinburgh Marathon. The charity supports 300 projects around the world however one story from their recent Annual Report struck me.
Hope for Children helps in various ways at the Hozheri primary school in Zimbabwe and a student who the charity will be helping is Standekile Sibanda. 7 years old and clubfooted, Standekile was being kept locked in a hut when she was discovered by Rosemary Machekano, the dedicated headmistress of the school. Mrs Machekano counselled the parents and prepared the schoolchildren for Standekile's enrollment. Now she's the unchallenged top of the class in grade five, and after surgery she's looking forward to wearing shoes and playing sports.
Just think about how it would feel to be even a little part of story like Standekile's.
It's a great way to say thank you
Many of us have real cause to thank one of the UK's specialist charities. A close family member or friend or even the individual themselves may have benefitted from the services provided by the RNLI or Guide Dogs for the Blind or MacMillan Cancer Care and then decided to give something back to the charity that had provided the assistance.
Jimmy McManus told runABC:
CLIC Sargent has a very special place in my affections. In July 2002 my 9 year old son Calum was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma; my family was devastated. He spent 8 months in the Children's Hospital in Edinburgh fighting the cancer and thank God he survived. During what was a terrible time for us CLIC Sargent provided tremendous support and advice and I'll always be grateful for their help.
Jimmy is now an enthusiastic fund raiser for CLIC Sargent and a highlight was a few years back when he raised £1,600 at the London Marathon.
Running for a charity is also a great way to remember someone close to you, as happened in the case of Jennifer Fox, who had diabetes and died at 25. Jennifer's partner Ben and her mother Margaret set up the Jennifer Fox Tribute Fund and raised over £10,000 much of it at Great Manchester Run.
It's so easy
Running for a charity is so easy. You don't have to run across the Alps or even complete a marathon. There are lots of fundraising fun runs, and Cancer Research UK run about a dozen of their popular Race for Life 5k events in Scotland in May or June. Check out our list of charities; if you're planning to run in a race please contact one - they'll be delighted to hear from you
You get great support from the charity
Backing from your charity can take two forms. One, many charities organise groups preparing for a big event like the Great North Run. It can be very motivating to train in a group which is being well-led and where the training is well-planned. Two, regular contact with other people in the same circumstances keeps you going and lets you share training and fundraising tips. Also don't forget to let your charity pamper you on race day; most have post-race parties, some with massage and therapies. Make sure you get a little reward at the end of long campaign
The crowd loves you
One thing you always notice at big races is the extra encouragement that charity runners get from the crowd. The guys in their bright red British Heart Foundation vests or the pink ladies from Breast Cancer Care get a louder cheer than your bog standard runner. Sign up for a charity and you can be a super-hero even if it's just for one day!
Make new friends
Your charity will put you in touch with people in your area who are preparing for a race. You might like some company on your training runs (a buddy to help you along when the going gets tough) while on race day you're sure to enjoy the camaraderie offered my all the other runners from your charity
One of the things that makes it really easy to run for charity is www.justgiving.com. This specialist website allows you to set up your own page on line where friends and family can donate. It's really easy and it's great to see the progress you are making towards your total
Have fun fundraising
Fundraising can be good fun. Organise a fun event - a race night or a quiz night or a 'smoothie' morning - in your local pub or club or at home. Invite all your friends and enjoy the social aspects of the occasion
It makes you feel so good
Don't underestimate the 'feel good' factor if you're raising funds for a good cause. The idea that you're helping people less fortunate than yourself or supporting a worthwhile service can have a powerful effect on your sense of self-worth. And it will put a little extra petrol in your engine for that challenging last mile or so