Marathon-Training Groups for Runners

Train for a marathon while raising money for a good cause.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil

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It wasn’t long ago when marathons were reserved for ultra-athletes, an elite group of runners who trained and ran the grueling 26.2 miles on a solo mission to beat their personal best and place high in their age group. But today, even former couch potatoes are heading to the trails and treadmills, and many are raising money for a favorite cause while preparing for this serious running challenge.

The concept is simple—get together with a group of like-minded runners, and train together while raising money for a good cause. The opportunity to run an out-of-town race is an added bonus if you’re looking to travel. Team in Training was the first of its kind to bring together the elements of running, fundraising and travel to create a marathon-training program.

Earlier training programs, created by pros like Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway, were created for serious runners looking to prepare for races and to improve their time. But today, marathon-training programs are fueling the running industry, and helping some worthy causes along the way. “A marathon was not on the radar for a novice runner 15 to 20 years ago, but they have become a pipeline for this second running boom which is catered to the mainstream runner,” says Running USA Media Director Ryan Lamppa of what he describes as the “marathon mania” that has gripped the country. “The first running boom was a solitary runner out there, now the second boom brings people together to train as a team.”

Training groups provide basic coaching and training tips in the months leading up to the race, with weekly group runs and plenty of motivation and positive affirmation along the way. On race day, the coaches are there to keep spirits high and runners safe and healthy. In return, racers pledge to raise a set amount of money for the charity, with minimums based on the race and location. Runners may receive perks for reaching fundraising goals, including hotel accommodations and running gear.

While adding miles to weekly runs to reach the marathon length of 26.2 is daunting to some runners, the prospect of asking friends, family and coworkers for cash may seem downright terrifying. But the good news is that even in this bad economy, people are still willing to give. In 2010, the New York Marathon aimed to raise $26 million, a million for every mile. According to Running USA, they surpassed that goal to raise $28 million for charity.

“These training programs are a pipeline for bringing in new runners,” says Lamppa.

And they have also become a pipeline for tourists in some marathon cities. “Races have become events—families make it a long weekend with spouses and children,” says Lamppa. “These marathoners have the money to spend to travel across the country. They’ll do the event and then check out the city and its restaurants and museums.” This means big money for marathon cities and a chance to woo runners to become repeat guests after the race is over.

Lace up your running shoes and brush up on your fundraising skills, and prepare to explore new cities from the start to the finish line with these marathon-training groups.

Team in Training recruits new runners and seasoned pros to train for a marathon with local runners while raising money for Americans with blood cancers through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). The minimum fundraising requirements and the available marathon-training programs vary based on the training groups in your home town, but among the most popular options are the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego marathon and the Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage, AK, for which runners may raise upwards of $2,500 for a great cause.
Blocked out of the 2011 Boston Marathon? That’s not surprising as this legendary race sold out in just 8 hours. However, you can still pound the pavement up Heartbreak Hill if you train with Team Hole in the Wall, Paul Newman’s nonprofit organization dedicated to sending seriously ill children to summer camps. Team members raise $4,000 while training with fellow runners for marathons around the world, including London, Big Sur, Walt Disney World and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.
NF Endurance invites you to run for a reason—specifically, to raise money for The Children’s Tumor Foundation, which works to fund medical research and provide support for children with neurofibromatosis and their families. Endurance teams compete in marathons including Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon, the Kentucky Derby Marathon, rock ‘n’ roll marathons around the country and more, and relies on a unique fundraising incentive program—raise a minimum of $500 for the race registration fee and then receive perks for additional money raised, including clothing, airfare and hotel accommodations for the race.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is well-known for its groundbreaking services for kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases, all at no cost to parents for treatments not covered by insurance. Runners support this worthy cause by training for marathons like the St. Jude Memphis Marathon with the St. Jude Heroes, who raise money in return for race entry and training and fundraising assistance.
Take advantage of your own healthy joints, and hit the streets to train with Joints in Motion, raising money for the Arthritis Foundation. Local chapters train together to compete in marathons, while the organization’s virtual training group brings together team members who don’t have a local chapter nearby to train for the Disney Marathon or the Reggae Marathon in Jamaica.
Runners travel to far-reaching spots from Fargo to Honolulu to complete a marathon and raise money for TAPS, a resource for anyone who is grieving the death of a beloved military service member. The money raised by marathon runners helps care for the families of our country’s fallen heroes by funding services including peer-based emotional support, 24/7 crisis assistance and more.

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