I was at a running event recently when an older, seasoned male runner was describing his favorite marathon to me. He said it was a beautiful race with a smallish field because, “They don’t let any of those charity runners in.”
I winced at his comment and thought, “I’m a charity runner.” Boston aside (good luck to everyone registering this week and next!), I don’t know what runners have against charity runners.
They didn’t have to scramble to get in. No, they had to pay the same entrance fee AND raise thousands of dollars for charity.
They make the field more crowded. The slots and number of runners in the field are designated by the race, not by the charities.
They’re not serious runners. Ahem. I beg to differ.
There’s a great quote (the author of said quote is unclear):
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
In 2006, my then boyfriend (now husband) re-upped with the United States Marine Corps Reserves in order to take a deployment to Iraq. It would be his second and last deployment to Iraq during is eleven years in the USMC.
Back home in New York, I worked, went to school, sent care packages and letters, and tried to occupy the time between phone calls from him. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to do something, contribute something to the military community.
Since I had run a few marathons, I decided that the perfect way to honor his service was to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I looked for a charity team whose mission was one that benefitted veterans and their families. It was an easy choice and I joined Team Fisher House and began fundraising for the Fisher House Foundation.
I chose TFH because of the Fisher House Foundation mission. Fisher Houses are large houses built near military hospitals all over the country where the families of injured veterans stay for free while their soldier recovers from injuries. They also fly the family to be by their soldiers’ side upon their return to the US.
It was a no-brainer for me. If ever I needed their services, God forbid, I wanted to have earned my keep.
I raised a lot of money and was very proud to represent TFH at that and four more Marine Corps Marathons and one New Jersey Marathon. My sister, Red, joined me for one of them and that year, together, we raised over $16,000 for TFH.
But that first year when I was running while JB was deployed, it was more of a cathartic experience for me. I cried as I ran. I smiled at the newly minted lieutenants from the Officer Candidate School handing out water. I accepted the high-fives from my teammates and strangers who cheered as I ran by.
I ran for more than just me.
Since then, I have run a dozen or so races of all distances for various charities, all of which held a special significance to me and my family.
We are a community, a #RunnerArmy. We are a family. Or, at least, that’s how I see the running community. I’m proud to be a runner who sometimes runs for a cause, sometimes my own. The experience of running in honor of someone else was entirely different than running my first race for myself, for my disease.
I fought like hell to get to that start line.
Next time you’re at a marathon and find yourself judging the charity runners, remember that they’re there running for more. You don’t know. Not all of them joined the charity as a back door into the race. Some of them are like me, running for their Mom, Dad, sister, husband, or even for themselves.
Maybe give them a high-five.
Now go out and run.