Long distance running is growing ever popular (we've all lost it!) and as a result it's become much harder to get a place in major races. Most of the marathon majors like the Virgin Money London Marathon are now done either by 'good for age' time qualification or lottery/ballot systems.
Charities offer a great solution to this by offering guaranteed places to individuals pledging to raise an agreed amount. For some, raising money for charity is the reason why they're running, but for others, it's a last ditch attempt to battle the ballots. The fundraising pledge differs for each charity, but for even the keenest fundraiser, hitting those goals can be a daunting challenge. This year, I'm running the London Marathon with a charity place as part of Team Macmillan.
Even though I work for a charity, I am rubbish at asking for money. Sometimes I feel more apprehensive about the fundraising than the actual training. Like most Brits, I have a deeply ingrained irrational fear of 'bothering' anyone. Yes it is a challenge and yes it can be hard work but I have to keep reminding myself that it's so worth it in the end.
Even if running for charity isn't your main goal, you cannot deny how vital sponsorship like this is for charities to survive. The London Marathon in particular has raised over £600 million for good causes since the race began in 1981. This is one of the great things about running that people don't shout about enough. Alongside the fitness element, it really brings people out of their shell to really test themselves and achieve unbelievable things for great causes. Even if you're not running for charity as your primary motive, why not see how much you can raise and then donate to a charity of your choice at the end? You'd be amazed by how much a few pounds here and there from supportive friends and family can really add up.
As for pledged fundraising amounts like mine? It can be done. You just have to break it down into little digestible chunks. Remember - If you don't ask, you don't get. The feeling of crossing that finish line when you've summoned all you can physically, emotionally and now hopefully, financially, really is second to none. When it's all over, you'll be able to rest assured in the knowledge that you'll have made a massive difference to whoever you're fundraising for. (Hopefully Macmillan Cancer Support?!)
My friends, family and colleagues must be sick to death of me asking for money - so this year, I'm trying to get creative. I admit my fundraising isn't going too well right now (as you can tell by my JustGiving page...!) but with a little help from Team Macmillan, I have plenty of ideas in the pipeline that I've pulled together to spur me on, whilst hopefully helping fellow charity runners on their way -
Fundraising top tips (in no particular order)
1. Sweepstakes - take bets on your time in marathon and various other events. If it's a competition, you can make a sweepstake for it. Why not give half to charity, half to the lucky winner to give an added incentive?
2. Curry night - May not be best for your training but brilliant for raising money. Ask a restaurant near you or get creative and host your own.
3. Baking - Spending a night baking and ask friends or colleagues to do the same and sell off the proceeds for a nice little earner. But please god try and avoid a soggy bottom...#bakeoffproblems
4. Quiz nights - Contact a local pub and ask if you can host a quiz night there. Charge for entry and let's get quizzical (sorry).
5. Fancy dress theme night - Some people hate it, some love it (invite these people). I went to a brilliant Après Ski party for my friend Susie when she was running the London Marathon.
6. Public collections - Get permission from the relevant people, get out there to shake your money makers (buckets I mean)
7. Sell off some old clothes - Have a look through your wardrobe and I'll bet there's plenty of things that you don't wear anymore. Ask other friends/casual work acquaintances to help you and have a cathartic jumble sale.
8. Have a good night in - Do you have friends? Have them round often? Great. How about just asking them for a little donation and put on some grub and films - easy peasy.
9. Karaoke night - The word karaoke strikes the fear of god into me but apparently some people actually enjoy it? If so, why not host one yourself in a local pub or in your home?
10. Do something that scares you - Ok, this may be an extreme one, but why not think of something that your nearest and dearest know you'd hate to do? I knew my long suffering mates would only donate if did something that scared me. Last year I shaved off all my hair (see below) and this Saturday (March 1st) I'll be chucking myself out of a plane (my ULTIMATE fear). Yes, I'm jumping out of a plane so I can run 26.2 miles...doesn't sound right to me either. For want of a better word, I'm absolutely bricking it.
Have you got any tips for me? Share your fundraising stories below or tweet me @jackwilson89