If you have ever watched a marathon, you have probably noticed the charity signs. On the starting line, you’ll see hundreds of runners side by side, all sporting jerseys which show the meaning behind their run. In 2010, nearly half a million runners participated in marathons across the U.S. For many of these folks, the act of running for charity is the driving force behind their endeavor. The exact percentage or number of charity runners cannot be determined, but in 2010, over $1 billion was raised through running for charity. The question is; how is money generated by running in a marathon? All the major marathons (Boston, Washington, New York, Chicago and London) have a corresponding charity program.
The New York marathon is the latest to switch to a more charity oriented financial model, and they have seen a surge in charity participants because of it. A non-profit organization (New York Road Runners) now manages the race each year. The NYRR began in 2006 with 14 charities, and now boasts nearly 200. Out of approximately 45,000 runners in this race, 7500 will be runners who are solely running for charity. Most marathons only offer entrance through a lottery or qualifying based on skill (or the runner must participate in 10 qualifying races).
Marathons now offer up a certain percentage of entries to charity runners; this gives many more people the chance to enter and raise money for their charity. The two biggest NYRR charities are “Fred’s Team” and “Team for Kids”, and these two charities will account for 2,200 runners in the NY Marathon. On average, Road Runners’ charity runners will account for over $25 million per year. The NYRR does require its runners to raise a minimum of $2,500 and their runners also must pay a registration fee, as well as an entry fee for each race. That means that they will have already collected nearly $4 million for charity before the race even begins.
The other major marathons are equally as popular and giving. The Chicago Marathon featured over 10,000 runners representing 150 charities, and raised nearly $13 million in 2010. This is way up from 2002, when they featured only 1,600 charity runners. Last October, about 20% of the runners in the Washington Marine Corps Marathon ran for charity, and raised $6 million. The London Marathon takes the cake when it comes to charity running. Over 80% of their entrants each year are running for charity, and raised over $80 million in 2010. The Boston Marathon is a far more competitive event, focused more on training and qualifying times than charity. Less than 5% of its runners ran for charity, yet still raised $10 million in 2010.