Why You Should Add a Charity Race To Your Running Schedule
It’s easy to understand the allure of Minnesota’s most popular races: chip timing, live entertainment on the course, quirky themes, swanky technical tee-shirts, creative finisher medals and post-race parties. The biggest races are well-oiled machines that churn out positive race experiences for runners who’ve invested months of hard work to train for one big race.
Without the glamour of a professionally organized race, smaller local charity races are often written off by beginning and veteran runners alike. Yet these “little guys” offer an array of enticing reasons to toe the start line, from the chance to financially support valuable community organizations to the opportunity to compete without the pressure of a larger goal race.
I’ve had my share of funny charity race experiences, like the time when volunteers made us stop and wait for a walk signal. Nevertheless, I always try to add a few small charity races to my calendar each year. While my primary purpose is to support charities I most admire, there are a number of bonus reasons that make a smaller charity race a fun, worthwhile experience.
Run for something greater than yourself
We each have a cause that’s close to our hearts: we volunteer at food shelves, build schools in Haiti, care for loved ones with life-threatening diseases and rescue dogs from animal shelters. There’s a charity race for almost any cause, and the money raised allows organizations to make meaningful changes in our community. Moreover, your presence makes a powerful statement of support, showing your neighbors that they are not alone in their struggles and endeavors.
Make it a team event
Invite a friend who’s new to running to join you for a less intimidating introduction to the world of racing. Form a team in memory or honor of a loved one who supported the cause. Cash in on the family rate (most often offered for church and school-sponsored events) and turn your weekend into a family bonding experience. Maybe you’ll have to ease up on your normal pace for your kids, or maybe you’ll be fighting to keep up with your speedy little running buddies!
Use it as a test run or speed workout
Many charity races are 5Ks, and perhaps you’re training for a 10K, half marathon or marathon. Use the race as a speed workout, and bolster your mileage with a longer warm-up and cool-down. If you have a tendency to go out too quickly, use this opportunity to reign in your race day energy. Try out your race day outfit to make sure those spandex shorts don’t slide down. Conquer nervous energy by staying cool at the startline, or test out your fitness level to set time goals for future races.
Save some Mmoney
It’s not unusual to pay $50 or more for a 5K that offers technical shirts, medals and a buffet at the finish line. A smaller charity race is usually easier on the wallet, often touting a racing opportunity for $20-$30. If your budget is tight, a charity race can be the perfect solution.
Have some fun
If worries about gear, nutrition or finding the ideal incline for hill workouts are causing you stress or if your goals are wrapped up in one race, use a charity race as a reset button. Feed off the enthusiasm of the volunteers, meet fellow runners who care about a similar cause and embrace the positive energy of a smaller race.
My Charity Race Schedule
This summer and fall, I’ll be running two 5ks for causes close to my heart. The Corn Days 5K benefits the programs and outreach efforts of my church, The Church of St. George in Long Lake. Orchestrated by Gear West, the August 14th race will serve as my test run ahead of the Twin Cities 10 Mile. The race will help me evaluate my current level of fitness and set my pace for speed workouts in my training plan. Better yet, there’s a pancake breakfast afterwards (but at an additional cost).
Most importantly, I’ll be running the Brain Tumor 5K on October 15th in St. Paul. It’s the weekend after the 10 Mile, so my legs will be a bit spent, but the cause is more important to me than my finishing time.
My dad died of brain cancer when I was 12 years old, nine months after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Dad was a health and physical education teacher, coach of everything from 4-year-old tee-ball to varsity basketball and an active board member in community organizations like the Red Cross and the YMCA. Most importantly, Dad was a dedicated father and unparalleled role model who blessed me with an abundance of love and life lessons. He set an example of positive leadership in supporting local charities and giving back to the community.
My overall impact at the BT5K will be small, but I run with the hope that my sliver of support will one day contribute to groundbreaking brain tumor research. That one family will find peace in the support of the race day community. That another dad will one day get the chance to watch his daughter’s future track meets. Because no matter where we find ourselves on our running journeys, one step can make a difference.
Eager to find your own cause to support in a charity 5k? Check out our race calendar below for tons of upcoming charity races!
Your Charity Races
Are you registered to run a charity race? Which one? Share in the comments below to raise more awareness for your cause.