November is the time of year when everyone is giving thanks. It does make sense why people focus on it because, duh, Thanksgiving Day. But giving thanks, while showing that we appreciate the good in our lives, is not an action. It’s more of a reflection. Turning a thankfulness for something into an action gives back and creates good and possibly creates change. For example, showing that you are thankful for always having enough to eat by helping feed the homeless is a way of turning your thankfulness into an outward goodness. So, for those of us who are thankful every day of the year for running, here five ways you can give back through your running or to the running community.
- Get matched through I Run 4. IR4 is a group that matches athletes of all levels with people who can not run for themselves. The group has four categories: I Run 4 Michael, where athletes are paired with children and adults with physical, mental, and developmental special-needs; Kerri On: I Run 4 Remembrance, where athletes are paired with families who’ve lost members to special-needs conditions, sudden death, and other tragedies; IR4 Siblings: The Unsung Heroes, where athletes are paired with the brothers and sisters of special-needs children; and I Run 4 Wounded Veterans, where athletes are paired military veterans who’ve returned from deployment. The current wait to be matched is 2-3 months, but judging by my friend who have been matched, it’s an amazing experience.
- Sign up to push a rider who cannot run for themselves. Organizations like Team Hoyt and Ainsley’s Angels provide the opportunity for runners to pair with an rider and work together to cross the finish line. Just this year, Ainsley’s Angels became an official charity partner of Ragnar after 4+ years of fielding teams for the races.
- Run for a charity (or at the very least run using the Charity Miles app.) The options for charities to fund raise for are huge and varied. In many cases, the race you want to run is the limiter as far as which charity you can choose and how much you will be expected to raise. Amounts can range from a few hundred for some races to in the thousands for races like Boston. Choose carefully – you’ll want a charity that touches you in some way as that makes the “money ask” easier for you. Also, some charities are more supportive of their runners than others. (Fisher House and Semper Fi are two for the Marine Corps Marathon that I’ve heard good things about.)
- Run as a guide for a blind runner or disabled runner. United in Stride is an organization that pairs sighted runners with visually impaired runners. Visual impairment differs with each runner, as do the options for staying together, ranging from verbal cues to various types of tethers. Achilles International pairs visually impaired runners and disabled runners with guides who can help them participate in a race.
- Volunteer at a race. At any given race, most of the people handing out packets, manning water stops, and giving you your medal are volunteers. These volunteers likely got up as early (or even earlier) than you to show up and work hard to make your race experience a good one. If you’ve never been on this side of the water table, you should. Not only is it a ton of fun to support runners, but it gives you a different perspective on races (and a bit more patience with the glitches that occur at any race.)
Right now, I am thankful to be running with no real issues. Even when I am having a rough day, I remind myself that I *get* to run. (Did you see the Runner’s World article about running and it’s effect on depression? Spot on for me.) There are many people who love to be able to run as easily as I can and it’s important to remember that.
Have you ever done any of the above? I’d love to hear about your experiences!