At its core, running is an individual sport. No one can carry you or physically assist you across the finish line. But as I learned in November when I guided my good friend through the NYC Marathon, it’s a beautiful thing when it can be a team sport as well— whether it’s through guiding, pacing or encouragement.
In years past, I have focused entirely on ways to strengthen myself as a runner— physically, mentally and emotionally. Running was about my goals and I. While I am still training and have my eyes set on various personal goals, I am also trying to take a step back and do more within the running community. There is so much more to running than just a finish line clock.
There are endless ways to give back to our great sport of running. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or structured. It can be as simple as encouraging a friend to start running or showing up to a local race to cheer for strangers running.
Related: 10 Things Running Has Taught Me
Below are a few ways to give back:
- Charity: If there is something you feel passionately about, odds are there is a charity that you can run for. I’ve raised money and supported three charities over the last 7 years: Fred’s Team, Wounded Warrior Project and Team Red, White & Blue. Each was for a specific reason and/or person. Some charities are official partners of the larger marathons and offer guaranteed entry for that race as a bonus!
- Pace a Friend: This is a great way to spend some special time with a good friend while also exercising and most importantly, helping them achieve one of their goals.
- Become a Mentor: You don’t need to be a certified coach or expert to help a friend or family member who is newer to the sport. You can be a virtual training partner, hold them accountable or even just be a source of motivation and support for them.
- Babysit: I know plenty of moms who would love to enjoy a 30 minute solo run in the sunshine and warmth. Too often moms run before the sun comes up, on the treadmill or with the stroller. Solo runs (in the sun!) are few and far between. Offer to babysit for an hour so they get some alone time!
- See For Someone Who Can’t: Last November was one of the most amazing experiences of my running “career”. Not only did I run the NYC Marathon, but I got to see the marathon FOR a good friend while helping him achieve his goals. Organizations like Achilles International or Team with a Vision can help match you with a local runner.
- Push Someone: There are some amazing organizations (Push to the Finish, Ainsley’s Angels) across the country that pair runners with children with disabilities. According to Push to the Finish, “It would give [children] the chance to experience running, and it gives runners a different running experience.” It’s different running for someone else, which is why their motto is “Our legs, their hearts.”
- Spectate: Sometimes it’s so easy to forget how much I enjoy the cheers and motivation while I am racing. A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law and I met up with some friends for the NYC Half. It was so much fun to be on the other side to high five and cheer on literally thousands of runners!