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Pilk’s Points: Running to Raise the Bar … and the Money

Charity runners have been racking up the miles -- and raising money -- for over 25 years.

Charity runners have been racking up the miles — and raising money — for over 25 years. 

I love three things: running, Cheetos and inspiration. OK, I love more than three things, but those three seem to be everyday staples for me. (Yes, even the Cheetos.) Running has been in my life for…well, basically forever. Cheetos are crunch-tastic and inspiration is a chameleon — it hides everywhere, it pops up anywhere and it transforms into anything. So when I discovered charity running back in 2008, it wasn’t really a question of why? — it was an answer of why the hell not? I sat at my first informational meeting listening to someone talk about running, eating Cheetos and feeling inspired. It was kind of a no-brainer.

RELATED: Bruce Cleland: The First Charity Runner

Five seasons and five years later, I have completed four half marathons and one triathlon with Team Challenge, the endurance training and fundraising program raising money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, and I’m about to complete my second triathlon and sixth event with them next month. I’ve run my best time, my worst time, my first half and my first tri with the charity, and I’ve raised almost $10,000 for the foundation. But why not skip the fundraising and go straight to the finish line? Although I have ulcerative colitis and am determined to be my own advocate for the rest of my life, the majority of charity peeps join with zero connection to the cause. Here are some reasons why charity running is not a momentary fad and has been racking up the miles for over 25 years.

1. A legit training plan: Many charity training programs offer a 16+ week regimen, complete with workout breakdowns, rest days, varying intensity levels and team training days. Whether you’re a total running newbie or an old timer looking to shake things up, there’s a program for you. For you social butterflies out there, team training runs usually happen at least twice a week. This is a perfect platform to blossom and meet some new faces.

2. An amazing coach: It was only after participating with Team Challenge that I realized how insane coaches are. And by crazy, I mean completely committed to coaching a team of 80+ participants of all levels, many times on top of a full-time job — every week. These coaches are lifesavers when you get stuck in that midseason rut and want to throw a temper tantrum instead of finishing that last interval.

3. An unique family: Charity runners are multifaceted. They wear tutus, train in packs, ask thousands of training and nutrition questions, make up wacky cheers, become amazingly obsessed with the training plan, talk confidently about their growing connection to the cause, recruit friends, overload Facebook and take more pictures than an out-of-towner at Disneyland. And they are the best damn people I know.

4. A reason: Whether you’re running for yourself, a family member or friend, a coworker, good karma or just because you got a flyer in the mail that gets an “A” in marketing, you’re running for a worthwhile reason. In my previous life as a charity coordinator, I would tell charities, “The free entry gets them on the team. The cause keeps them on the team.” And believe me, if you’re screaming in agony at mile 12, the cause will scream louder.

5. And, of course, the destination: Duh. Most programs cover some travel expenses, including the race entry fee, in the fundraising minimums. Depending on what team you join, you could see the likes of Las Vegas, San Diego, Hawaii, New York City, Nashville, Tenn., Chicago, and a myriad of other amazing locations. Not only are you giving back the great majority of your fundraising efforts to the charity’s mission, but you are also packing your bags and enjoying a new course, new friends and a new place to par-tay!

RELATED: Running for Charity: Uniting for a Cause

Not sure where to start? Is your favorite event sold out? Don’t fret, as charities often get post-sellout privileges. Check out the list below to see if your favorite fall race still has spots available. If anyone needs me, I will be tweeting out my fundraising page, diligently reviewing my training plan and watching the chameleon do its thing.

Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series

Women’s Half Marathon Series

Big Sur Half Marathon

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

ING New York City Marathon

Nike Women’s Marathon San Francisco

Philadelphia Marathon

Marine Corps Marathon