Getting Fit for a Cause

by Leesa Raab

I remember just a few years ago when I would hear my friends talk about doing half-marathons and I would think to myself “why would you EVER do that,” as it certainly wasn’t my idea of fun. Now, I’ve never been too athletic, but as the years went on I did start looking for new ways to get active, as well as get involved in my community. That is when I discovered training for a cause. Whether you’re someone who can’t run a mile, or an experienced marathoner or triathlete, there are advantage for seeking out groups that will help you train for an endurance sport while you fundraise for a cause.

I was in the afore mentioned group when I first signed up with Team in Training (TNT) to do the Seattle Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in June of ‘09. I had recently moved to the Bay Area where I didn’t know many people and was looking for a way to make some friends and get to know my way around San Francisco. Even though I probably hadn’t even tried to run a mile since high school, the information meeting made me feel comfortable about how they would help me prepare for the race–and the fundraising. Not only did I fundraise the $2,900 and finish the 13.1 miles, but I also signed up to do another half marathon next year with the New York TNT Chapter.

If you’re thinking “pfft, I run all the time and have already done a marathon, why would I need to join a group,” let me just tell you there are benefits for you too. The biggest reason is all the people that your fundraising can and will help–no matter what cause you hold near and dear to your heart, you can find a way to support it through endurance training. And, well, if that isn’t reason enough, some of the most difficult races to enter, such as the ING New York City Marathon or the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, have assured entry through charity groups–which means no more signing up for the race lottery and keeping your fingers crossed. Plus, no matter if you’re a beginner or advanced, it comes with the chance to meet new people and get to know your city better as you traipse around several miles of it each week.

Now that you know why you should look into signing up to train, here are a few groups you might want to consider joining.

As I mentioned, Team in Training is the one that got me hooked. TNT benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and 75% of what is fundraised goes directly to the cause. There are TNT chapters literally all over the country, each region offering different races to enter each season. The races let you get out and travel the country, or even internationally, to compete in your race. And if a half marathon seems a bit much, right now the New York Chapter is even offering a fast-track 10k training, where participants will run the first ever Rock n’ Roll 10k in Prospect Park in October. Yours truly is a mentor for this group, for which it’s not too late to sign up! Just tell them I sent you. You can check to find your local chapter, as well as a list of events.

Another great group is the St. Jude Heroes, which benefits the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They push everyone in the group to run for a reason and to do it for the children, which helps give a little extra push in the last leg of the race when you’re just not sure you can do it. Last year they raised over $3 million for the children at St. Jude. To find a local chapter and find a race to sign up for go to

Joints in Motion is another training team, which benefits the Arthritis Foundation. They inspire others to Run or Walk a Mile in Someone’s Shoes. They too have chapters around the country and allow you to choose a destination race, for which all expenses will be covered upon hitting your fundraising goal. They also offer Virtual Joints in Motion (VJIM) for those who do not live near an active program, which provides all training material online and an online support group.

There are several programs out there dedicated to breast cancer research and funding. The Susan G. Koman 3-Day for the Cure and Avon Walk for Breast Cancer are a couple of examples, both which have events throughout the country.

So even though summer is coming to a close, autumn is a great time to be outside, enjoying the weather and staying active. And believe me, if I can do it, you can do it.

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