Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Running Boston for charity?

Happy Marathon Monday! Right now I'm grouchily watching the livestream of the Boston Marathon while doing work, because I have a ton of work to do before book club meeting tonight. 

Over at Salty Running today, the question came up of what people think of Boston charity runners. Does letting in charity runners diminish the prestige of the race? 

Personally, I would not run Boston as a charity runner without ever qualifying...and I speak as someone for whom it's more likely than not that charity running is the only way I will ever be able to run Boston. (Note for the uninitiated or people who can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that there is a world of difference between me running a lot and me running fast: I would need to complete a marathon in 3 hours 35 minutes or less to qualify.) I just...wouldn't. BQing and running Boston means more to me than just getting the experience of running Boston; I feel like there's too much history and tradition there for me to not give the race the respect it deserves. 

I don't really mind if someone wants to run it for charity, as long as they respect the marathon distance and train properly for it. (And many people do!)

HOWEVER: The perceived prestige of Boston is precisely what enables the race to raise so much for charity. The bar to get in as a charity runner at Boston is much higher than getting in as a charity runner for just any old marathon, and thus the dollar amount a charity runner needs to raise is that much more, which enables charities to raise tens of millions for their various causes. In a single year. In an ideal situation, the number of charity spots would be limited for exactly this reason: scarcity enables charities to raise more per runner. 

(Tangentially: I would feel better about entering as a charity runner if I knew I was able to qualify/ had already legitimately qualified. Does that make any sense?) 


  1. I dunno, I kind of think I respect the charity runners more (and I say that as someone who hopes to run as a time qualifier soon, and doesn't do the race charity thing at all). I mean running as a qualifier is fine and good, but it's really not about anyone or anything but yourself, whereas charity runners are actually making a difference and accomplishing something important for other people. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with running selfishly for yourself (I do it, it's my hobby/way of relaxing/etc.), but the very idea that someone might suggest that raising a bunch of money to help others somehow *diminishes* the prestige of a race?? I find that pretty galling. (And honestly....Just in terms of skill sets, it will be way easier for me to meet the qualifying time than it would be to raise that much money. Because WOW I suck at fundraising. So I kind of think that makes me respect charity runners that much more.)

    1. Yeah - I don't really understand the notion that charity runners might *diminish* the prestige of a race. If someone can raise $10,000 for a great cause, more respect to them!

      I do think the scarcity factor re Boston makes a difference though - to people wanting to run it, and to the causes that benefit. (A little selfishly, it just wouldn't be my personal choice to run Boston for charity, though I might do a different crazy endurance thing for charity instead.)

  2. I think it's a big fundraiser for several charities, so I applaud that. It's also what made the Gansett marathon the ONLY qualifying-only marathon in the world...until it stopped in 2013. Who will take up the challenge next?!

  3. I didn't realise that you could run Boston for charity. I don't know if I'd take that option but if I did, I don't think I'd brag about running Boston. It would always be spoken of with the qualifier that I'd run it for charity.

  4. You are right. I think there are many ways to raise money for charity: for instance a shorter distance during the same event.
    But Boston is..... Boston. I began to run in 1985 and every italian magazine and every book about running told of Boston. For me that dream didn't come true.

  5. As you get older the time limits for Boston do increase. I hope to get to earn the right to run Boston when I'm 60. The time limit increases to 3:55 which I hope to be able to still do.

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