Caitlyn Pilkington rediscovered her motivation to race after cheering on her charity teammates at a triathlon.
In January, I wrote a charity feature on my experience running for Team Challenge. After it was published, people approached me and thanked me for sharing my story and showing people the power behind running for charity.
Between January and now, I’ve taken some time off from fundraising and running with my group in orange. I still attend alumni events and saw many of my teammates’ smiling faces on the weekends, and I got to witness via social media bonds grow stronger within the San Diego team as it trained for its fourth season at TriRock San Diego this past weekend. I was lucky enough not only to cheer my face off all day long in the sun (I have the burn to prove it), but I was also fortunate to get an inspiration recharge—that is, a crystal clear reminder why every person should do at least one charity event in their lifetime.
I can say with more confidence than ever that the community I’ve grown to admire, respect and really love has changed my life and the way I do my own races. You see people link arms to carry their fellow teammate through the race. You see people you’ve never seen interact push the pace and challenge one another through each mile. People sacrifice their own race-day time goals to help a fellow participant get through a rough patch. At practice, nerves are eased with jokes and cheers are louder than a full squad at a championship game. And when that final person crosses the line, everyone on the team is out there clapping for their teammate, crying happy tears for what’s been accomplished and hugging one another because they’ve just adopted a whole new family.
Inflammatory bowel disease or otherwise, the mission behind every charity was created for a reason, a reason often influenced by one person’s struggle and another person’s desire to help. Big or small, you now have dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands, of people agreeing to go above just the training plan to get to the start line, because one person somewhere decided to start a program and see what happens. In the beginning, Team Challenge had one local event in San Jose. Now the 30-plus chapters nationwide are tackling marathons and Ironmans around the country—all for a common mission that connects them all.
There’s often skepticism surrounding fundraising. But where does the money actually go? While I can respect the curiosity from someone who has never participated in an event, to me, that’s like claiming to hate Brussels sprouts before you’ve even tried them. Shake hands with a charity’s honored hero, visit a research lab, attend an educational symposium and learn about new medical findings, volunteer at one of those beloved camps that host kids with common conditions, subscribe to the charity’s newsletter, call the local chapter to get more info—the fact that these opportunities exist shows where the dollars go. I listened to a doctor update a crowd of 300-plus on exciting developments in inflammatory bowel disease research over the weekend, and he said that, because of the strides made on fundraising and donations over the last handful of years, he believes there will be a cure in his lifetime—something he didn’t think possible when he started his research years ago.
And Of Course, Race Day
Running for charity has changed the way I race. A wise coach once told me to “always race with gratitude.” Be grateful for your health, your ability to approach the start line and your ability to cross the finish line. While everyone has the shared goal to help meet the charity’s mission, every person has a personal reason, different from everyone else’s, for tackling that goal. You see it on their faces during the race: this moment when their smile isn’t just because they’ve accomplished an athletic feat, but because they’ve also accomplished an emotional one.
Some are big, some are small, but all are worth a try—at least once. You won’t be disappointed, and I promise you will meet your own honored hero along the way.