To be honest the decision to train for next year’s Chicago Marathon was an easy one for me. Because I am not a runner my best chance for actually participating is to run for a charity (this is fine with me), not only will I reach a personal goal, I will do something good for an organization that does so much for many others.
There are about 170 charities that participate in the marathon, many of which are for causes dear to my heart. Somehow I need to select just ONE to represent next year.
For those who are unfamiliar with the process: some charities will cover your race registration fee ($195) and guarantee you a place in the run for exchange of your commitment to raise about $1,500 (whether run or not). Many have trainers that work with their “team”, others partner with the local training entities which seem to be CARA (Chicago Area Running Association) or CES (Chicago Endurance Sports). Typically you will get a pasta dinner the night before the race and a t-shirt for the day of and admission to an “after party” that is held in a tent after the race where they will provide you with some snacks, maybe pizza and you can hang out with your team and family members. I am a swag addict but I promise that I will not select a cause based solely on the logo design.
hint: I think a lot, so when you see me say “decisions” I am going to walk you through my process, this could get lengthy. So what exactly am I considering when I narrow the list from 170 to one?
First registration fee and guaranteed entry: plainly put I cannot get into the race based on my own credentials, my only option would be the lottery (I have no idea the odds). This is the 40th year of the Chicago Marathon and I have a feeling that plays into the decision to move registration to October the year before instead of spring the year of. I am only looking at charities that will guarantee a spot. Then there is the registration fee; I would love to find a group that will pick this up for me but then I would most likely turn around a donate it to the same cause so for me this is a wash; but the charity could come out ahead.
That brings me to the second point: fundraising. $1,500 seems very doable. Pretty much every organization that I looked at will set you up with your own page to take online donations. In this age of information I am able to look up charities to see their score which is big in my decision making process. It would be very disappointing to learn that I ran hundreds of miles (training) and that my friends and family donated money for the personal gain of a few individuals and not actually to the cause that I had been promoting.
I say friends and family but if you are a stranger to me and have decided to follow my journey via this blog and would like to support me as a runner for my cause, have no worries, there will be a link ;)
Third is training: because I am not currently a runner I am most concerned about being properly trained for this race. My father runs with Team World Vision and if they had a group running in Oak Park this really would not be an issue, they are a great organization and I would run with them. During the weekly long runs they run along the lake and while I will try to join them on a Saturday or two, I hope to find some people to run with closer to home.
We have a local Fleet Feet who works with CES, it seems like it would be more convenient if I chose an organization that is also one of their charity partners. I’ve seen them early Saturday mornings gathering before a run, they seem like a nice group.
In addition to training with my group, whomever they will be, I read that the Nike Run Club of Chicago has a number of FREE resources too. When I check them out I will share my findings and first impressions.
With those three key factors in mind I still ended up with a long list. So I asked previous participants for their suggestions and everyone said “follow your heart” because that is what really helps to pull you through the early morning training runs, the hot summer runs, the rainy runs and ultimately the big 26.2 mile run.
So who are my short-listers: World Vision, Ronald McDonald House Charity, The Anti-Cruelty Society, Girls on the Run, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Golden Apple and Erika’s Lighthouse. This is my SHORT list, there were more. The one thing that I am certain of in this moment is that if I get bitten by “the bug” and this is not my one and only marathon, I will run for a different charity every year.