The New Niggle: Should I apply for a charity place in the London Marathon?

Last week thousands of magazines were dropped through letterboxes either saying ‘You’re In’ or ‘Sorry’ as ballot places for the London Marathon 2016 were allocated.  I received my entry magazine through my Good for Age place, but I’m very lucky as anyone who has ever entered the ballot will agree that getting a place seems even more difficult than winning the actual lottery.

If you didn’t get a place but really want to run then you are left with one option, which is entering through a charity, and this was how I entered last year.

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I can honestly say that it was the best decision I have made throughout my life, but this is with the benefit of hindsight.  I was terrified of letting down my charity by not raising enough money, anxious about asking friends for money and being the annoying one who bangs on about it on Facebook, and probably as intimidated by my target of £1,800 as I was by the 26.2 miles.

If you want to run the London Marathon in 2016 for a charity then here is my advice and the things I wish I’d known last year.

  1. Just Do It

Thinking about it doesn’t make it any easier and the best thing to do is just to commit, as panicking and stressing creates a culture of fear.  If you tell yourself that you can’t do something enough times then there’s a danger that you will end up believing it.  Have confidence in wanting to do it and email a charity.  It’s a cheesy quote of instagram, but this really is a case of feel the fear and do it anyway.

2. You will raise enough money

I definitely had days where I felt my JustGiving amount hadn’t changed in days but the reality is you most likely will hit your target.  However, signing up isn’t enough – you have to prove to your friends that you are working hard and giving it your all.

People are so astoundingly generous and you shouldn’t underestimate the variety of motivating factors when it comes to sponsorship.  I assumed I would be sponsored by my friends and family only, but people I knew years ago, barely at all, and not at all all surprised me with their generous spirits because they either felt inspired by my motivation for running, or respected and understood the hard work I had put into it.

If you work hard and commit to training then your fundraising will be successful, but you can’t expect to do nothing and be successful.  Find a way to demonstrate your hard work and make sure your friends know how important it is to you.  My way of communicating this was my blog and it meant that people knew I was trying my best and had an insight into the reality of training for a marathon. The marathon may be only one day but the experience starts from the minute you receive your place, and it is for that experience, of which the day is a part, that you are sponsored.

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3.  You must be polite and grateful

If somebody sponsors you then no matter who they are find a way of saying thank you.  I made sure to text or email or write to all the people who sponsored me at the time, and whilst it was a little time consuming, I kept a list of the emails of everyone and sent an individual email to each person after the marathon.  This wasn’t just to be polite, I genuinely wanted to express my sincere gratitude and share the day that meant so much to me with the people who had helped me and supported me throughout my training.  I didn’t think it was especially extravagant but I actually ended up getting thank you emails for the thank you emails.

4. Don’t choose the charity with the lowest fundraising limit as an easy or safe option

You must choose a charity for which you feel a clear passion and sense of commitment, and demonstrate this to people.

Whilst all charities are very worthy causes, it is important to find the one that is right for you because if you choose one based on ease of access or a low fundraising target, then those lukewarm feelings will come across when you’re asking people for sponsorship.

My friend recently ran for Asthma UK, a condition that she has struggled with her entire life and her clear dedication to her training and fighting through the difficulties presented to her because of it was really inspiring and I felt motivated to sponsor her out of awe rather than obligation.

5.  Remember that you can do it

Marathon training is tough, but the only way to finish it is to keep going.  I spent so much time feeling stressed by my fundraising target, feeling inadequate and thinking of it in terms of success or failure.  However, when the going got tough and I was injured  it stopped being a source of stress but inspiration because when giving up became a viable physical option I realised I was so motivated by what I had fundraised already.

Having a charity place means you are more mentally committed to running as there are dependants on your performance and effort and the motivation of your fundraising is sometimes the only thing that gets you through on hard runs.  Be inspired by your cause and yourself.

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