This time last year I ran Brighton Marathon with my mum – my second marathon and the first race I ever ran for charity. I am conflicted about running for charity. On the one hand, if you are someone (like me) who loves running and competing, running for a charity place in a race can feel like getting people to pay you to do something you want to do anyway. And I sometimes feel its a bit wierd that we all congratulate people so much for raising lots of money for charity when really what we mean is “well done for having such generous friends“.
However, all my mean gripes aside, you can’t get past the fact that here in the UK we are all ridiculously generous – both those that do the running and everyone they know who sponsors them. We raise huge amounts of money through sponsored events every year – the London marathon alone raised almost £60 million in 2016. Its pretty incredible – that is a lot of lives changed.
So why did I decide to run Brighton Marathon for charity?
Less than two months out from the marathon, my grandma died after struggling with Parkinsons disease for a few years. It is a horrible disease that completely robbed her of her quality of life and left her in constant pain. I was out for a training run the day after she died around the hills of Scotland she loved so much and I just couldn’t help but think that I would be missing an opportunity if I didn’t try to raise some money – that running “just for me” was actually selfish rather than something to be proud of. So the first thing I did when I got home was Google the charity Parkinsons UK.
There is currently no cure for Parkinsons, just various medications that do or do not work to make life a little bit better – and sometimes the side effects make it a lot worse. The shaking you may be aware of is exhausting, painful, and can lead to a lot of other problems. It can come with dementia, hallucination, depression, incontinence, blindness…
Parkinson’s UK are the largest European charitable funder of research into Parkinson’s. They are working to find a cure, and to find better medication to deal with the symptoms. They also work to make life easier generally for those with Parkinson’s, raising awareness, and knowledge of best practice amongst professionals, having trained advisors and local support groups for those affected and their carers. It is a fantastic charity, one I was very proud to support and one I would really recommend you take a look at, particularly if you have any experience of Parkinsons yourself.
In the end, I was so pleased I had decided to raise money, so touched by all those who donated, and it made me feel throughout all the training and the race that I was running for something larger and more important than just myself.
How did I raise money?
A number of ways. I set up a Just Giving site and publicised it on Facebook and other social media sites – focusing more on those where my friends, people I knew in real life, actually followed me. I asked my family to publicise it as well and my Dad sent an email around his work. I sent a targeted email at work, not to everyone, but to those I knew, with quite a personal message as to why I was raising money. This was great and instigated a lot of donations. I also cooked up a bunch of cakes and brought them into the office on a Friday. I left them with a tin in the kitchen and a sign asking people to donate. The cakes went really quickly but what made more money was the email I sent round with it – this I sent to everyone in the department letting them know why I had brought cakes, and I was surprised, touched and delighted by the number of completely unexpected people that donated large amounts of money.
Just Giving was great in making it so easy for people to donate and add gift aid which also really increases the overall amount. They have now partnered with EventBrite, the ticket website, to make it much easier for people to link donation pages to events – and they offer events set up by charities a reduced service fee with a cap. Obviously, despite my own reticence about raising money for charity I am super-supportive of those who do it and so also super-supportive of anything that would make it easier, hence being happy to promote their Just Giving tie in!
Especially if you know a lot of runners, and your family and friends all know you as a runner, it is much easier to raise money if you go to groups where running a marathon (or whatever your race distance!) is an unusual and awesome thing to do.
You should also ask your company if it will match funding – lots of large companies these days have to hit targets for charitable spending and so offer to match fund any money raised up to a certain limit. This was great in increasing the amount I raised!
What was it like, running for a charity?
Honestly, it was fantastic. There was a Facebook group filled with runners who all offered each other support and training tips. We received a t-shirt to wear on race day and iron-on letters so we could put our names on the shirt. Being quite particular about what I like to wear running I was worried the t-shirt would be uncomfortable but it wasn’t – it was great. And wearing it on race day just meant I got so much support that really kept me going. Parkinsons UK had dedicated “cheer spots” and every time someone in a Parkinsons T ran past a huge cheer went up and people had their hands out to high five you or give you sweets or water – like private aid stations! If you saw another Parkinsons t-shirt while running you would also cheer them on, so you were just followed with support the whole way round the course.
And then at the end Parkinsons UK has its own tent where you could have a sit-down, some food, and a massage.
Would I do it again?
Yes – definitely. At the right time and for the right reason. It would have to be an event about raising money for charity, rather than raising money to allow me to do an event I wanted to do anyway … if that makes sense! I just wouldn’t feel comfortable otherwise. But having a proper cause really made the runs mean so much more – both the race itself and the long training runs. If you are unsure about running an entire marathon, I’d say it is a great way of getting yourself to the start line and doing something wonderful at the same time.