Eight ways you can use your running for a good cause

If running has inspired you, improved your health or changed your life, consider giving back to the sport you love.

Whether you donate time, talents or money, there are plenty of ways you can pay it forward and help inspire the next generation of runners.

Here's eight ways to make every kilometre you run count towards more than just personal health:

1. Clean up litter

Around Australia there's a growing number of community run programs like that allow environmentally conscious runners to take part in weekly or monthly group beach, street or park cleans. Others like in Melbourne, let valued members pledge one hour of voluntary beach cleaning a month.

2. Help promote personal achievement

In Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra you can volunteer to become a trained guide for athletes with disabilities through . The charity's vision is to create an Australia where people with disabilities can enjoy the social, recreational and health benefits of an active lifestyle.

Volunteering can include helping to guide athletes with vision impairment to run and/or walk, looking after guide dogs and running/walking with athletes at events. 

3. Mentor a new runner

When you first started running, you probably had a running friend who encouraged you and provided some help and advice. Are you ready to pay it forward and help a newbie get started? If so, remember that you don't have to be a coach to be a running mentor.

Sharing your love of running and fitness with a friend or family member is about being encouraging without being pushy or overbearing. Offer to go on run or walks with them, keep the distance short and the pace slow at first, share some of your failures and accomplishments, and listen to their reason for starting to run so that you can help them achieve their goals. You may be surprised by how taking a newbie under your wings can improve your own motivation to run.

4. Indigenous Marathon Foundation

What started out as a question (Do you think Aboriginal men can run like the Africans?) to former world champion marathon runner Robert De Castella soon became a documentary about four young Aboriginal men's journey to the 2010 New York City marathon start line.

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Support the (IMF) work to reduce the incidence of Indigenous diseases and create role models to inspire young Indigenous people by booking an IMP marathon graduate to speak at your organisation, donating directly to the charity or promoting its life-changing work.

5. Give your shoes a second life

It's advised that you should change your running shoes every 750 kilometres. Instead of letting your old shoes pile up, drop them off at one of Shoes for Planet Earth's around Australia. The organisation works with local and international communities and companies to give recycled running shoes to people in need around the world.

6. Run for a cause

Many major running events support entrants to fundraise for a charity partner or you can choose you own. Set yourself the challenge of a lifetime by running 100km through bushland while helping to tackle global poverty at one of Oxfam Australia's events or train and cross the finish line of your first half or full marathon while raising funds for cancer research with .

7. Volunteer at a Parkrun

Become one of the helpful, supportive and encouraging volunteers you see at running events or your local .

Major running events and local Parkruns rely on the generous support of volunteers to help with activities like course marshalling, traffic management, pointing runners in the right direction, drink station management, medal presentations and set up and pack-down. Head to the website of the next major run in your community to register your interest to volunteer.

8. On My Feet

If you've ever ran the last leg of the Medibank Melbourne Marathon you'll have experienced the excitement of finishing your race in the Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG.

Next time you're there consider this stark fact – Australia's homeless population can fill the MCG. works hard to give homeless and long-term unemployed adults the opportunity to training, employment and a better life through running. Members are provided with running gear (t-shirt, shorts, socks and shoes), and in return, they're asked to run with the community three times a week. You can lend a hand to this life-changing program by volunteering at the trainings or by starting a new chapter in your community.

The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.

Follow Laura Hill 

Do you use your running for a good cause? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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