Hearing about all this constant run love can be exhausting if you’re just starting out your relationship with the sport. Running isn’t easy. If it was we’d all be vying for the Olympic trials, rocking spandex and sports bras, and training for ultras. So, let’s step it back to reality. The spark to train for a race stems from reasons all over the spectrum of motivation: from personal health to ‘I told you so’ to the sense of belonging to something bigger.
In the deepest corner of this loving community live the charity runners. Theirs is soul sweat - a community connected beyond the notion of the runner movement. They are healing and moving together for their cause. I myself have been a charity runner for the past three years, and as it’s nurtured and inspired my own personal runner journey, I was curious to dive deeper into the charity runner mindset, and discover what exactly keeps all of us so tight-knit despite the diverse and ever-growing demographic.
As part of this article I polled those close to me, and was blown away by the touching responses that bring this special family to the road.
A man can accomplish anything when he realizes he is part of something bigger.
- Terry Alexander
After my first marathon in 2010, I was quite certain I never wanted to train for or tred another 26.2 in my lifetime. The marathon finish line sat proudly on the ‘done’ side of my bucket list and I wasn’t looking for another six months of exhaustion, broken toe nails, bruised IT bands, and 5AM Saturdays. In my mind there was nothing that could bring me back to the road, until I found the charity team family.
So I asked, how has running changed your relationship with the sport? This is what I found:
"Running for a charity is actually the only way I really know how to run. I signed up for my first marathon in support of a charity and never looked back. Having never run more than 2-3 miles, I can say with confidence that I would have never made it through 26.2 miles without the support of my teammates and coaches; if at any point I found myself alone on the course, thinking of all of the people that were helped by the funds I raised is enough to make you feel a little lighter on your feet and feel the wind at your back."
- Laura Vollmer
"If it weren't for running with Fred's Team, I wouldn't have a relationship with running at all. I would be a sad couch potato. I don't love running. It has never and will never be easy for me. I continue to do it because I believe in the difference we are making as a team for those affected by cancer and I feel safe and supported by my teammates to seek and destroy the personal challenge of running a marathon."
- Samara Kelly
"Every time I run, I think of what my miles really mean. When I am out of energy or have a nagging injury, I think of the people spending each day fighting cancer. All they want is to live their lives in peace and that's happening. Through my running, I know I can raise money to fund cancer research that can bring them one step close to living their lives in peace. That's my mission, that's the why I run for a charity- so I can end their fight against cancer, so they get to go home."
- Terry Alexander
One of the most humbling lessons I’ve learned so far in running is that being the “best” is a relative term to your own personal goals and abilities. It’s a far cry from team sports like soccer or football, and yet entirely different also from solo sports like golf and tennis. Running is an endurance sport measured in reference to your own best performance – the coveted personal record or “PR.” Although I still run for personal records and strive daily to improve my physical abilities and mental focus, running for charity was the first time I really felt the notion of a team.
Running can be as much or as little of a solitary sport as you want it to be, but as a charity runner just knowing that you are part of a group of people all doing something you love for something you are passionate about is an amazing feeling. You never feel alone.
- Lauren Goodwin
It’s easy when you start running to get caught up in comparisons. You see the elite runners, the sponsorships, and inevitably the 12-year-old whose mile time was three minutes faster than yours when the crawled out of their crib for the first time. We can fall into the trap that the right shoes, snacks, hydration, or shorts will make us into the Lauren Fleshman lightning rods whose long legs and six pack we’re all dying to get our hands on. I won’t tell you running for a charity is the golden ticket to change all of that, but it’s the opportunity to align what’s important to you outside of running into the right type of motivation on the road.
Being part of a charity team though has taught me that while it is natural and completely fine to have running goals, at the end of the day, achieving (or not achieving) them does not make me any better or any less of a person. It's taught me to take all my successes and "failures" with a grain of salt, because in reality I am lucky to be healthy enough to be able to run. It sort of takes the pressure off (the self-imposed pressure mind you) and makes me enjoy the sport so much more. Not that I don't care about my goals or still won't work my butt off to achieve them, but it's taught me to not get caught up in them and to be grateful that I have a healthy body that is able to do what I ask of it.
- Lauren Goodwin
You can’t count on much with running. Inclement weather, unexpected injuries, wet socks, side cramps, heat fever, chapped lips...you name it. The world continually tries to one up every runner out there trying to one up their personal record on race day. If there’s one thing you can count on with running, it’s that no matter what happens on or off the training path; runners will always get back on the road. This special community has taught me and many that running can be the medium through which personal growth, community, and change – for yourself and others – is possible. For this I will forever cherish charity runners.