Charity Running & Fundraising: My New Approach


And here we have Charity Post Number Two!! Last week I found out that the majority of our fund-raising cashola goes back into projects, which was great to hear, and made for a very positive and happy post. :) This post will look at a more contentious side to charity fund-raising via running. :(


Often, when a runner signs up to run for a charity, there is a minimum amount they agree to raise for their spot in the race. The amount depends on the race – I had to raise £300 when I ran for Breast Cancer Care in the Great North Run in 2012, but I’ve had friends who have run the London Marathon, and had targets of approximately £2000.


When I was speaking with my running group, one member pointed me to this article, which claimed that charities are holding runners personally liable if they can’t raise the agreed targets. One organisation also revealed that one spot in the London marathon can cost them £400. A quick look at some of the charity listings on the VLM website showed the following fundraising targets:

  • MIND: £1750
  • Oxfam: £2000
  • Asthma UK: £1800
  • MacMillan: £2000


And here is the unfortunate darker side of the subject. I personally am torn between the idea that an individual should be held personally liable for that much money when they are essentially doing something voluntarily to raise money. However, on the other side of the coin, charities rely on these events to meaningfully contribute to their overall fundraising, and so they need individuals to take their targets seriously, and encourage minimum dropouts.



I remember one of my friends ran the London marathon a couple of years ago. Not only did he run the 26.2 miles in an inflatable Pamela Anderson outfit (which SB then wore o his stag do – ripe!!), but he also had to hold a series of pub quizzes to make sure that he hit the fundraising target: running the marathon wasn’t enough on its own to hit his sponsorship targets, which doesn’t seem quite right. When people need to resort to additional fundraising activities, I can’t help feeling that the targets are perhaps higher than they need to be.


I have done two charity runs: the Great North Run in 2012, and I did the Newcastle Stampede for the British Heart Foundation in 2013 (the target was £25 for that, which I paid myself for the pleasure of doing the event!). As I said, my GNR target was £300. Reasonably, I thought if I can get 30 people to donate £10, I’ll be ok.




But this was much harder than I thought. I advertised on Facebook, I sent emails to colleagues, family and friends, but there’s a fine line between begging, being over-demanding, and simply asking for donations. I had messages from people telling me why they couldn’t sponsor me: they had already sponsored their friends, or they were having a hard month. So then I felt bad for making my friends feel bad that they couldn’t sponsor me!




So. This all leads to the difficult decision: when you see all these Just Giving pages on Facebook, just who do you sponsor? Everyone has a great cause to support, and a great reason for their choice. And now we know that some targets are ambitiously high. Should you look at the event the individual has chosen, and how challenging it would be? Should you look at who is doing the event, and how challenging it will be for them personally? Should you look at the charity, and base your decision on that?


I don’t have the answer to these questions. Except I do recognise that there’s a difference between someone who has never run before wanting sponsorship for the Race for Life, and someone like myself, who runs 10+ miles regularly for fun, asking money for a half marathon. On some level I do think there should be a personal challenge involved if you are asking for money. One of my running friends summed it up well: they are more likely to sponsor someone if the event is ‘a real and perhaps transformative change’ (as discussed in last week’s post) as opposed to ‘just a way of gaining entry to an event’.


There are many events on my running bucket list,  but I’ve resisted doing too much for charity for the simple reason that I love running. I love it the way that Homer Simpson loves donuts, or Kim Kardashian loves selfies. And it doesn’t seem right to ask for sponsorship for something that I want to do for fun – even if the money is going to a good cause. I’d want to set a time goal, or run further than I’ve ever run before.


There’s also something intimate about running for a charity, and if the connection to the charity isn’t mine, then it feels a little voyeuristic. It has to be the right circumstance: I have friends who are going through some personal challenges, but if I chose to run for a related charity, I’d feel like I was shining a light on an area of their life that is very personal.


I think it’s time for a big, fat HOWEVER, because this post become more negative than intended! Remember my friend George Nicholson, torch bearer, park-runner extraordinary and all round top bloke?


He weighed into my runner’s group debate to say that the Great North Run charge charities the same as a typical runner for their places. He is also a very loyal supporter of Acorns Children’s Hospice for deeply personal reasons, and is grateful for all the support our fellow runners have shown when they run for Acorns. The hospice is not in the same league as Oxfam and The Children’s Society in terms of profile, but they raised £42k from the Great Birmingham Run and £26k from the London Marathon last year, and Josh’s story is a powerful reminder of how we can all make a small but positive difference to people’s lives. So keep this in mind too when you’re considering fundraising: don’t lose sight of all the positive you can do!


This is a big topic, and I thought about this subject for about six weeks before writing these posts. I feel I should do more for charity since I do run so much, but I’m not 100% convinced that signing up for huge financial targets and asking my friends and family all the time to sponsor me is the way forward. Plus, I’d want to consider which organisation to support to make sure it was right to ask for money. So, behold my own personal answer to this conundrum!!


When I ran my first marathon in May, I ran for myself and not for a charity. However, I dedicated the run to my former sports teacher, who had died of a brain tumour the year before, and donated to a relevant charity. When I was running the race, I thought about the charity, and the teacher who has influenced who I am now.

Serious final-100m consideration going on there.

Serious final-100m consideration going on there.

So this will be my approach going forward: I will consider the event that I’m running, and a charity to dedicate it to, and make my own, personal donation – the amount of which will be determined by the nature of the event, my personal goals and interest, and my personal finances!  I’ll let y’all know here who I’m dedicating the run to, so you too can donate should you wish.


It won’t raise as much money as it would through a standard charity place. But it means that I can support different organisations in a way that’s comfortable for me. And should I ever want to run in a formal charity place, I won’t have used up all the goodwill of everyone I know! I imagine that there may come a time when something happens in my life where I very keenly want to raise money and awareness through my running, and I don’t want to squander that.


I hope it doesn’t sound like the coward’s way out. It’s not intended to – it’s my own sustainable way to bring something constructive out of a hobby of mine. And in the spirit of my new system, I am going to dedicate Saturday’s  5k Neon Run to Oxfam’s Ebola Crisis Appeal, because they were kind enough to help me with information for these posts, and because I admire the way they drop everything to support the most immediate of crises. They are currently working in Sierra Leone and Liberia to prevent the spread of the disease.


What do you think on the whole subject? I am very interested.


Ellie B

Tempest Warriors Stampede!

The first rainy weekend of the Autumn. The temperatures dropped, and night time seemed to fall at about 4pm with all the clouds blocking the sun. And what did I, and 11 of my friends, do on Sunday morning? Get up and run a 10k obstacle course?  Of COURSE!


Obstacle courses seem to be the biggest thing in England at the moment, as if running itself wasn’t enough. It’s a really different experience because you’re not just tired from running, but also from hauling yourself over/under/through whatever they throw at you. So your overall pace is slower, but you’re still really tired as everything has had a workout. Plus, it’s like when you were 6 and ran everywhere, and didn’t care how wet, dirty or tired you got.



The race is run by the British Heart Foundation, and we’ve been busy raising money. We got to the starting line and collected our T-shirts, sorted our bags out, and posed for the pre-race photos. If you’ve not picked up on it, the pre-race pic is a very important part of my routine 😉


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Matching nails that match your clothes helps you to nail the course. Hahaha

Before we started, they took us through a very thorough warm up. Everyone was raring to go, and we had a really strong start. Then, as we turned into the woods…. Disaster struck. We hit a queue for the first major obstacle. I was running at the front of our starting wave, and we caught up with the previous wave who were still queuing. We kept telling each other ‘it’s ok, it’s a fun run, we’re in this for the charity not the time’, but a few friends who were a little further back said my face was like thunder. Turns out competitiveness trumps reason in my brain….


We were in the last wave of starters, so I had guessed things were going to be a bit backed up for us. However, we queued about 20 minutes to get to the obstacle, which was too long in my opinion. People started to get cold after such a great warm up, and that’s not completely safe or encouraging for people in the fun-run category and who may be doing this for the first time. We met some other queues too, and by the time our group were running, the water stations en route were empty and abandoned like some kind of plastic cup ghost town.


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Despite this initial setback, we made it through the muddy ditch and were back running. What followed was 8k of running through uneven fields, leaping over hay bales, running over tyres, crawling through water-logged pipes, and climbing a huge hay-castle (there is no other word for it). And again they had my favourite: the slip’n’slide!!!


The course finished with a mud-finale. Three big pipes, with a mud pool either side. And each mud pool was deeper than the last. I’m only 5’2″, and by the third, it was over my hip. To be honest, this is what I love about these courses: testing your speed, strength and stomach (that mud smelled weird). I am the biggest wimp when it comes to jumping in a swimming pool on holiday (what if it’s too cold?!), but seem to have no issues jumping into a pile of mud – and whatever else is in there.


One of us is a professional dancer, and the other one is a mud-lover. Can you guess who’s who?

I finished with a time of 1:31:46, but we all agreed as a group that we can take off at least 20 minutes due to the queues. We know the times don’t reflect our actual running, but then again, as a team we raised a lot of money for charity so the times don’t matter (too much). And it was fun. And knackering. And dirty.


And the highlight: just before we started, we were told that members of B*Witched and 911 were running the course too*, filming for their Christmas video. We starred in their video singing along to their song – lead roles you know 😉 I’m now compiling my talent CV for when all the agencies come knocking. This is my Big Chance, I can feel it.


If you’re interested in an obstacle course, there are literally loads  you can choose from: Total Warrior, Born Survivor, Rat Race Dirty Weekend, Tough Mudder, Survival of the Fittest, and then there are probably smaller ones like this one too. Give it a go – it’s unlike anything else you’ll do! But be prepared for your family to hose you down before they let you in the house afterwards….


Thanks to Ian Cameron for the pics used in this post!


Ellie B


* If you’re not sure who B*Witched or 911 are, you can familiarise yourself with their amazing contribution to the UK pop scene here and here.

Coniston Trail & Birthday Bonanza!

So, let’s get the important stuff out the way first, because I understand you’re all dying to know: yes, my birthday was fab. There was muchos food, cards and presents, and I was very lucky. Definitely the major themes were running and pink. I received some Winter running clothes, ‘Born to Run’ in both book and CD format (so I can listen while I run – very thoughtful, Dad), and…… a GARMIN!! I am so excited about this because I’m too cheap to buy one. Every time I’m wrestling my iphone from my back pocket to check my time mid-run, I curse myself for not having a Garmin.


SB got me the Forerunner 10 in purple. I haven’t tried it out yet – I’m washing a load of my running gear (felt like you needed to know that), but I can’t wait to give it a go!  Other birthday highlights included two boxes of chocolate pop tarts, and the fancy dinner we went to. Thanks SB :)


So now that’d dealt with, on to the running. On Saturday I ran a 10k trail in the Lake District. SB was going to come too, but something came up, and I ended up flying solo. I’ve done runs from this series before, and this was my favourite. The start/finish line was right by the lake itself, with gorgeous views. Plus they had a steel band playing as we set off and finished – who doesn’t love to set off to ‘Goldfinger’ by steel drums?

As soon as we left the ‘race village’, we were climbing. And we kept climbing for the next 4k. As we started, I saw the (low) number of competitors and realised that I could do quite well if I put my mind to it. Pride comes before a fall: within the second kilometre, I was walking!


It wasn’t as if we were running up a normal hill, though, it was a small, steep track made up of stones and narrow clearings in an uneven field. Most people were walking, but for some reason it really got to me. I couldn’t find the motivation to keep running, even when the path became more even. My thoughts became very melodramatic, like ‘well if I’m walking now, I might as well walk the whole thing’.



Then as the path evened out a little, I told myself to man up and get over myself. One of my friends was competing in a roller derby at the very same time, and her mantra is: ‘I piss awesomeness and I sweat glitter!’. When you’re walking up a hill trying to avoid the sheep crap and keep your balance at the same time, this phrase can do wonders for your motivation! By the third kilometre I was running again, and found my groove again in the 4th as we reached the top of the summit.


Don’t get me wrong – this wasn’t anything like The Wall, but was more of a mental tantrum brought on by a couple of things: I wasn’t expecting to run alone, and my knee was still vulnerable, so even if I wanted to run fast, I couldn’t.  I am lucky that I’ve never really had to battle my own psyche before. It turns out that when you’re not competing against yourself, it’s easier to give up!


As soon as I started again, though, I felt 100 times better. Sometimes you just need to keep going, and find that it’s not as hard/bad/boring/challenging as you thought. Or, it is still all those things, but at least you’re tackling the problem rather than letting it beat you.


Mental challenges aside, the trail was a gorgeous one to run. The scenery was different at every kilometre – fields, forests, rock quarries, and the last kilometre was by the lake. I finished in 1hr 5mins, and came 22nd out of 135 ladies, and 72 out of 228 runners overall. I was really happy with that!


On Sunday, I’m running the Newcastle Stampede with my dance friends. It’ll be the last big event of the year for me and I can’t wait!

Ellie Bphoto-40