My adult running “career” came about after realizing running was my strongest of the three triathlon sports. It all started when I trained for a triathlon with Team in Training and raised money for cancer research along the way. Maybe it’s because of this philanthropic start that I almost never say no to an opportunity to give back to the running community.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to support my fellow athletes in many ways. While fundraising was not my strong suit, it was the start of a running career filled with giving back and I’ve definitely found other ways of giving back that I’m much more suited for since.
Tis’ the season of giving and I’d like to share some of the ways I’ve enjoyed giving back to or through the sport of running with you.
Fundraising and Mentorship
Way back in 2003 I signed up to train for my first Olympic Triathlon with Team in Training. That led to several years of fundraising and mentorship. I made some great friends, including our very own Dill. To most of the general population, running is something you do if you are being chased by a bear or the cops. So when you’re friends hear you are training for your first major running event and you explain about the efforts that go into that, they most likely will think you’re nuts. But they also will want to support you.
Running for a cause is a great way to use their support to help others. While Team in Training is geared to newbies looking to train for their first big athletic event while fundraising for their cause, there are plenty of opportunities to run for a cause or race for charity. And even if you are horrible at fundraising like I am, you can always share your expertise and give back through mentorship and helping others with the program. Or you could take the direct approach and send some money directly to a great running related charity.
Volunteering for Races
Throughout my running career I’ve managed aid stations, I’ve handed out water, and I’ve marked and torn down courses. Races are usually put on by volunteers. Many times races use the support of local communities, but wouldn’t it be grand to see most of that support come from runners themselves? If you are organized and have lots of friends consider leading at an station at your next local distance event. Too much responsibility? Offer to hand out water or support at an aid station. Races need support all the way from course markings, packet pick up, aid stations, to tear down. Make it fun, and skip your next race in favor of helping out another.
I’m also very fortunate that my running style is smooth and steady. Once I have set a pace I pretty much stick to it. This comes in handy for marathon running especially. And it was noticed by friends who suggested I hook up with a pacing group.
Pacing marathon groups was a great way to help other runners achieve their goals and added bonus I got to check out a lot of races I might not have considered before. In addition to leading formal marathon pace groups I have a history of pacing friends to meet their goals. From helping a friend stay on pace for a 5k PR, to helping a friend finish their first 50k, to helping Salty try for her marathon PR, to accompanying a friend the last 50 miles of the burning river 100 mile race, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to play personal pacer.
If you’re hoping to run all 50 states, looking for some long training runs for your next ultra, or just want to spend time with some running friends you have gotten a little speedier than, consider pacing as a way to give back.
How about you Salty Readers, in what ways have you given back through or to the running community?
For the previous 12 Days of Running posts, go here!