Monday, August 16, 2010

Advice for First Time Charity Marathon Runners

In July, I gave a presentation at Fleet Feet Chicago to a group of first time marathon runners who were running for a charity.

Since then, I have been asked by a number of people to post the speech. Feel free to share.

My story
I made the decision to run my first marathon in September 2004. I was sitting in a restaurant in Las Vegas and a co-worker told me he was training for the Chicago Marathon in October. I laughed and said, “I could only run 5 miles”. He responded, “if you can run 5 you can run 15…everything gets easier after 5 miles”. I thought, here is a guy who must outweigh me by 60 pounds. If he can do it, I certainly can. A few months later, I made the decision to run the 2005 Chicago Marathon and began the training process. Fast forward to July 2, 2005- I woke up in the hospital, the victim of a brutal mugging where I was left unconscious and bleeding in the street with no memory of the attack. I was in my 3rd week of marathon training. The attack left me emotional and physically battered and running became my therapy. I don’t know that I can say running saved my life that summer, but it certainly saved my sanity. In 2005, I ran and finished the marathon for me. In the years and races since, I made the decision to run for others.

Training Tips
1.) Join a training group in your town – In Chicago we have great organizations like Chicago Area Runners Association “CARA” and Chicago Endurance Sports “CES”. Joining a group to train does a number of things: 1) You will make great friends; 2) you will be held accountable to your training; and 3) it’s a great place to get your questions answered. During your training runs, you don’t have to worry about time, distance, pace or where to go. It’s taken care of for you. I count some of my very good friends as people I have trained with.
2.) Get your hands on a copy of the “Non Runner Marathon Trainer” by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener, and Tanjala Kole, $12 on Amazon. It’s a great book that breaks down what you will experience in your training week by week. Someone passed this on to me for my first marathon, and it is a great source of information. Educate yourself.
3.) Make friends – If this is your first marathon, put yourself out there, run with new people, find other first timers in the group. You’ll make life long friends and avoid driving your non-marathon friends crazy. It’s true, you get obsessed with running and your new first time friends will save your other relationships.
4.) It’s ok to be crazy. Embrace it. Other people in your life will have no idea why you are doing this or why you have become obsessed with all things marathon. It’s ok. Be you.
5.) Black toenails, chaffing and bleeding are badges of honor in the racing world. Wear them with pride
6.) Hydrate, fuel and listen to your body. Hydration is absolutely the key in summer training. Hydrating doesn’t mean have a glass of water before you run. It starts during the week. Keep a large glass or water bottle around you at all times constantly refilling. You are going to feel pain. It’s a fact. But there are aches and pains you run through and there are injuries that must be treated early to avoid ending your marathon dreams in training. Take advantage of the free screens that many organizations offer. Be smart and get help early. In 2006, I thought I could run through some heel pain and ran myself into a broken bone, out of the marathon with about 6 weeks to go and couldn’t run for another 6 months.
7.) Break your runs down to one day at a time. Looking ahead to the week’s worth or month’s worth of runs can be overwhelming. Rather, think, today, I have to run X miles that takes X number of minutes. I have 24 hours to find X number of minutes. By being present in today’s run, you will reduce the stress and anxiety about how you will fit all this training into an already busy schedule. You will also derive greater enjoyment out of your training runs
8.) Follow your training and trust it – you may miss workouts here and there. It’s ok. Don’t overtrain. Honor the long run.
9.) Develop a mantra that works. A mantra is a positive repetitive message to yourself. “I am strong, I feel great” “I feel Fresh and Loose” Find what works for you and use this when your training runs feel tough. This may sound like crazy head talk but on hard runs, a mantra can be a lifesaver. Start during training so you are ready for race day.
10.) Develop your prerace routine. What do you eat and drink the night/day before a long run? Do you carbo load on Thursday for a Saturday run? Again, find what works and stick to it. Don’t try anything new on race day.
11.) Respect the long run. Rest before, hydrate well and visualize what a great run you will have. Step back weeks are often the hardest, so treat every run with the same significance.

The Race
1.) You will love the race. A million plus people cheering you on the entire way. There is no better feeling. You will want to bottle it.
2.) First timers – forget time, place, pace and standing. Finishing is the ultimate goal. Be proud of your accomplishment. Setting a time goal and missing it can diminish an incredible accomplishment. Worry about time in subsequent marathons.
3.) Trust your training. Be confident in the miles you have put in and the training you followed. You will finish. Believe in yourself.
4.) Break the race down into 3 parts. First 10 miles is a party. 2nd 10 miles gets very quiet and internal. Finish with a 10k. Simple.
5.) Control only what you can. Heat, hills, wind, rain are out of your control. Let it go and run your race.
6.) Use your mantra when you need it. You have physically trained yourself to complete the marathon. There are some miles that you will get through on sheer heart and will. Your mantra will carry you through these miles. There’s a motto that says the first ten miles you run with your head, the second ten with your legs and the final 6.2 with your heart- this is very true for the marathon.
7.) Put your name on your shirt – it may seem silly but trust me, I didn’t for my first and regretted it before the first mile. There is nothing better then hearing your own name out on the course. It will energize and inspire you.

1.) If you haven’t yet told the world you are running the marathon for a charity, do so immediately. This holds you accountable. I had a friend who did all of the training but never sent out his charity information. Come race day, he didn’t make it to the start line. Had he been accountable to those who pledged money for him, he would have been there.
2.) Use the charity fundraising website, send it to you everyone you know and encourage your friends and family to send it to everyone they know.
3.) Use the email feature to create your blog on training. Give your audience something (your story, what inspires you, what you are going through) and they will give you something back – Money.
4.) Ask for a specific amounts. Sometimes people don’t know what amount is appropriate to give. In your communication, let people know what $26.2 dollars would buy for the shelter or how long $100 goes for homeless pets or how $1,000 would buy the equipment needed at the hospital.
5.) Make it regular – you can’t send it out enough. By sending it repeatedly, you aren’t bothering people, you are competing with all the other info they get on a daily basis and ensuring they remember your cause.
6.) Thank donors personally. Don’t just rely on the auto thank you feature. Be personal.

Fundraising Ideas Outside of the Charity Website and Social Media
1.) Throw a party – $26.2 gets you in. Have others donate, drinks, food, venue
2.) Hold the party at a bar – many bars have non profit party rates where they will give you a discounted package rate and anything you make over that amount goes directly to your charity.
3.) Put a jar at your desk/office/place of business. Put change/dollars in it and add some candy or a snack next to it, people will feel obligated to give what they have in their pocket. You will take anything.
4.) Where do you frequent? Starbucks, Bars/Restaurants, Dry cleaners, etc.,- ask them if you can put a jar in their store. Think of people you know in this world, ask for their help. I have a friend who set up a stand at a bakery. He told his story to the customers and they donated what they had to his cause. He, in turn, told all of his friends to come in and visit the bakery. It was beneficial for both him and the bakery. The bakery then matched what he collected.
5.) Communicate your passion. Why are you doing this? What drove you to run for your charity? Is there a story? Communicate this in your story, emails, jars, posters. People will buy into your passion.
6.) Sponsor per mile. $1, $5, $10

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